Tag Archives: Show Biz

Hand in Glove

Handsome, a physical specimen, educated with grace and manners but are we capable as California/artist/performer/author of being debonair? Is our style too casual, too wash and wear, with silk and linen missing from our closet?

The Bordeaux is one continent and one ocean removed. We go to the Napa Valley. It is all so downscale. Yes, we have the French Laundry but who can get a reservation on the day and time of their preference? Dining on their schedule instead of ours?

Telegraphing taste in California is done by automobile. Clark Gable had many elegant rides. His 1938 Packard eight cylinder convertible Victoria with coachwork by the polo playing Darrin of Paris, a war hero, snappy dresser often described as dapper. That is how it was done back in the day.

It goes without saying that since the last good war we’ve had only other kinds of war. Whatever is left of taste and style is piled onto the shoulders of George Clooney. Nob Hill is in decline everyone that is anyone in high tech is south of Market Street now.

A Wilkes Bashford shopping spree can save a man from himself. From there a luncheon at the St. Francis Yacht Club or a martini out at the Cliff House at sunset begins to crack styles salvation back into view.

Our politics is more crude and coarse. We now have wave upon wave of propaganda outlets posing as talk radio hosts. In what universe is global warming a hoax and birth control pill use to be discouraged?

The best educated among us leave for Wall Street. They go with an algorithmically enhanced ambition. Ethics has been drowned in a sea of free market theology. These distinctions are lost on a world that is trapped in a technologically supercharged innovation cycle.

It is where we find ourselves. Sinatra is gone. He had style. Palm Springs did back in the day. Perhaps vulgarity is a necessary part of any gilded age. Our manners, our clothes, our cars all hissing at one another, but missing the acquired pleasure that civility offers to the delicate central nervous systems of a more aspirational soul.

I by chance stumbled upon a radio interview with Norman Mailer. While our current President has raised the bar considerably in his use of the English language when compared to the previous office holder he has to speak to all of the citizens whereas Mailer simply is allowed to speak.

There is a pleasure to a person choosing the right word. We find our lives improved. What they have to say changes us. We know something when they are finished, and it isn’t poured down our throats and manipulated into us. Instead it is by the right means that we get there, persuaded by fact and perspective until the best course is obvious.

This is the hand as substance and the glove as style that I miss in discourse and why there is still much to be said about the fact that the clothes still do make the man while his speech might well undo him.

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Coming Homing, Gardening as Show Stopper

Dom and Jane live in Wooloweyah, Australia. I booted my Google Earth program and took a look.

Dom elects to put as much distance between the world’s troubles and his home as space will allow.

Yamba, the nearest town is a tourist destination located just north of Dom’s village. I’ve known Dom for his work as a street act. He’s moved on from vaudeville style street shows into music.

Dom now prefers the easy rhythms of music to the comic timed one-liners. Belting out those punch lines can test the diaphragm and weary the vocal chords.

Sitting back and allowing the music to pull folk in is preferable to leaning against the flow and trying to stop the world in its tracks. Street energy is dynamic. The street show is executed by force of will. Will is often mind, and mind is more often than not wit, and wit is what we can say about the present moment that rings true.

The most truthful thing to be said about this last truth is that it isn’t always true, but it is more true than not, and demands a performers most strenuous effort. A street show is always a trial by jury.

I’ve had the privilege of the company of some of Hollywood and Broadway’s most celebrated talents. One Christmas with Bea Arthur, dinners with Bill T Jones, out for drinks with Norman Mailer, backstage with Leon Redbone, Chris LeDoux, and Stan Getz.

Leon Redbone in case you might wonder is a charming and generous man. He was always playing another odd tune on his portable, always eager to ask me to listen, tell him what I thought.

Packing up and loading out and jumping to the next date Mr. Redbone lamented that all he really wanted to do was wrap up the tour go home and garden.

Moments are driven not just by the times we live in, but by the simplicity our souls seek. Fame and fortune have little currency in this realm. This is the place where our pristine parts of self are allowed space to influence our most authentic choices, a moment when we choose non-action, non-doing. It is restoration, it is revelation. It is home.

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When Comedy Goes for Help

Make them laugh, make them laugh..

 

Today I’ll harvest sage wisdom from two comic minds. One is a silent clown, the second a gypsy magician.

The silent act has spent much of the past few decades doing cabaret inEuropewhen he wasn’t doing odd arena style opening work for major musical acts. The magician by contrast has played everything from children’s cartoon show feature, to authoring of the Klutz Book of Magic, from large venue stage shows to very intimate venues where he roves the crowd performing close up.

Having blended my life from all show business, on stage, full time, 300-500 shows per year, into part show business full time novelist, completing a novel about every 21 months, and presenting some 100-150 shows per year, my comic muscle remains in shape while the minds and imaginations of my two associates remain honed and their instinct for what is funny sharp.

Literary fiction is a realm with a different set of rules than the set that comes with a variety show stage act. There is an intersection, a place where they overlap, and one can inform the other. The secret is to know not just what to do (entertainer) but knowing something about how to do it (author.)

Still, in developing the outline to Hot Spring Honeymoon what I have is now a set of potentials. My friends are relentless imaginations. The silent clown is ever obsessed with any slight, least, moment he can exploit for his own mirth making purposes. He is granular, sees the world through a lens that is of its own kind.

The magician is different still. He is concerned with illusion, trickery, surprise and revelation. It isn’t what the performer sees from stage, but what his audience sees, and as an illusionist first and funny guy second, he understands the intermediation that good narrative demands.

Both know situations that are inherently funny offer a power that a singular funny line does not. They have a nose for circumstance, have strengthened their instincts to respond to opportunities.

I will go with a hundred ideas and return with a thousand. A few of these ideas will be worth their weight in fools gold. We write alone at a desk. We write what we know. Pieces of what we come to know have been generously donated to us. Sometimes it comes as a gift from the well seasoned comic minds of veteran showmen.

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Tender Mercies for Billionaires

The Asphalt Jungles Self Reflection

Now we Darwinian types do prefer our coffee black and we’ll take our capitalism as wild and predatory as nature itself. Social stabilizers, rules to the road, well regulated markets are for softies.

The era of abundance is over. I never got a crack at enjoying the thing while it was around.

So what we are left with after a really good party is clean up. Lights up, janitors enter, brooms sweep floor, windows cleaned, put everything out in the trash. If you were at the party hope you met someone and got their number.

I love fundamentals. I do like a good big overarching construct. I want a bucket I can put the whole thing into. I enjoy whiling away the afternoon at an outdoor café in animated discussions with friends while we whittle away at the coming next best system.

For circus stunts by bloated corporations that are too big for their own britches there is the failure of the marketplace to put them out of their misery. They can’t change. They pay their management too much. They’re service is second rate. I thought they were talking about me for a second. I do love a good thriller.

Little Guys working for the Big Guys

And then there is this nasty thing called governance. Those Northern European’s have the nerve to tax high, regulate with zeal, and produce heaps of what Stiglitz refers to as Gross Domestic Happiness! It is enough to make a free market ideologue puke. What a bunch of babies.

The Soviet Union collapses, Germany reunites and that is awesome! Capitalism takes steroids. The world levers up and synthetic derivatives are the worlds new playboy party dolls.

The Chinese look at this minestrone soup of freewheeling market driven chaos and see opportunity. “You want imports? We can do that.”

The world is in a deer in the headlights moment. To get anything done we have to thank globalization for requiring that we now have to do it all together. After watching Washington try to make sausage one can only begin to imagine what a really big world wide banquet might look like.

I love a good musical. I love it when there is that magical scene when some character at the top of their lungs yells STOP! And right on cue everybody freezes right where they are. It’s amazing, and it’s make believe, it’s a theatrical device, but it isn’t reality. The reality is that we have to keep going, whether it works out or not.

All I know is that food stamps are a paradoxical concession to the Darwinian capitalists search for perfect economic liberty.

And then for the closing scene this little guy grabs a mirror and holds it up to the face of the big shot.

The big shot running his fingers through his hair says, “I can’t afford to take a haircut.”

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The World Can Just Go to Hell, I’m Going to Nevada

Pretty as a Peach

Nevada is a great place for land speed record attempts. They have hot   springs everywhere. Sagebrush loves it in Nevada. It is a magnet for a particular kind of person. Now every kind of person comes to Nevada. They all arrive differentiated. Each kind; there are men who come, and there are women.

I would suggest that there is some territorial intoxicant that suffuses a person’s entire being once they have lived inNevadafor a certain amount of time

Once you get the hang of it life takes on an ease and lack of concern for so many things that simply remain irrelevant to happiness. Take for example something as basic as pavement. You don’t need it here. A dirt track will do just fine thank you very much.

Another thing you don’t have to put up with is a neighbor. You can go live someplace where there are no neighbors. It will be just you… you andNevadaall to yourself.

I know a man who has a irrigation pivot and grows alfalfa. Lives alone, never married and worst part of his job is to have to come in from out where he grows his crop and talk to someone in town about selling his crop. It would be the perfect job if he could just get rid of that one pesky task. He has no use for words.

Looking at a slice of nowhere

Not so many people get out into the hinterlands and really give the solitude and space a good chance. It’s too damn quiet. Nothing much happens. Sun comes up. There’s the day. Sun goes down. Then there’s the night. Go to sleep get up and repeat the same thing again. If you didn’t mark your calendar, ‘why,’ eternity could slip right through your fingers.

You see maybe that’s just what happens to a soul out there. You kind of arrive all mixed up about what is and is not important. Then, the eternal forces start working you over pretty good. Next thing you know you develop a rural orientation. You start talking slow. Then you stop talking altogether and spend more time thinking things through.

You’ll find folk don’t use much reason inNevada. People in Nevada prefer to be unreasonable. You start feeling different and then start acting different. You get a little wild eyed. Laugh at things nobody else finds funny.

Nevada isn’t meant to be a place for every man. It is meant to be for people who don’t fit in elsewhere. Made a movie with the title, The Misfits…. Perfect.

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Bankrupt Heart casts a spell, it’s a rollercoaster romp of heartbreak and revelation, from a life shattering moment to gut wrenching laughter, from love to loss and back again…

Ryan Waters the top-rated radio personality in San Francisco, standing in front of his home on Telegraph Hill waving goodbye to his college-bound daughter, Sophia, has no inkling he is going to receive a telephone call and later have an unexpected meeting at the radio station. Both together blow apart everything he thought he knew about who he is. The mother of his daughter runs off to London for a tuba player! Ry ends up living in utter chaos aboard his best friend’s wooden sailboat. The derelict and broken souls in the boatyard take it on themselves to help Ry Waters fix the boat. His best friend Finn enjoys a new love affair. The two are perfect for one another. Her name is Kristine and like Finn she wants nothing to do with a relationship. There is Mort (Ry’s agent) who is desperate to find his top act another job. And finally there is Jackie; a watercolorist, yoga instructor and art teacher. She is a gifted, intuitive, uninhibited woman with a knack for shattering convention and sparking the unexpected. Jackie turns out to be the high octane catalyst for change that helps propel this story to its climactic ending.

 

The Atomic Cocktail Please… with a Twist

Wide Open and want to keep it that way

In 1951 the atomic test site began a series of over 100 above ground atomic bomb detonations. Our ignorance was bliss, bombs were entertainment. The atomic cocktail was served to customers who had come to the top floor skyscraper lounges of Las Vegas. Here they could enjoy the view of the mushroom clouds and a brilliant glowing flash followed seven minutes later by shockwaves that rocked buildings and cracked plaster.

Yucca Mountain is north of the test site. Here like a zombie it rests, scientifically proven unsafe, but that doesn’t dissuade the truly motivated from trying to place it back on the list of facilities we can bury the most nasty manmade heap of life unfriendly radioactive waste the world has ever known.

Now, this goes a long way of explaining how the mind of a rural resident of Nevada works. The nefarious outside forces of crony capitalists, bought off politicians, and nuclear industry stooges have continued to make trouble. They won’t give up, still want their way.

People who live out there come in all shapes and sizes. They think this way and they go that way. Different kind of people is a way to explain it. They tend to want to be left the hell alone. From far away you might think they have some kind of special bias. You’d think they just were born to have a bad feeling for government.

They’ve seen money poured down the throat of some pretty trustworthy types and then watch in horror as that very same person begins singing like a radiation spoon fed canary over the virtues of doing with their state the very thing they most do not want done.

They do not go by fancy labels. They don’t need them. Because the Great Basin and Mojave is desert there are visitors that do have not a cultivated appreciation for what is to be found there.

There is no deal to be made. It isn’t a place where compromise holds much sway. There is little water. It was for most of the last 13,000 years a place where man passed through. It supported a few. Most found fairer climates and more abundant food in other parts of the west.

What we have here now is a band of people who know the truth of a sunrise and sunset; people who like quiet and want to be left alone. You want to go to a brothel? Not a problem. You do your thing and they will continue to do their thing. But, doing what you want and destroying what you have is where these folk draw the line.

I’d say a true blue citizen of Nevada is something akin to trying to define pornography, might not know how to define such a person, but by god you’ll know one when you see one.

           

You can find my book by placing my name, Dana Smith and Bankrupt Heart into the search engine at either Amazon or Barnes and Noble and it should take you right there.

“The Evil of Two Lessers….” Quoting Now from a tweet out of Iowa

Wild Mushrooms... what are you doing tonight

There are some dirty rotten scoundrels in this world. They get mixed in with all of us. Deep thinkers that I know propose that we are all potentially evil. They claim we have latent seeds of dirt and rot and scoundrel just waiting to break out

I suppose they are right. I lose my temper. I hate traffic. Things can get out of hand. I am prone to get upset and create my own personal hockey rink moment.

But this choice between the lesser of two evils where did this tradition come from?

I think a lot of the women I have dated were selected on just this basis. And to be honest I sometimes danced with my lesser angels when selecting between these two different candidates. To set the record straight, I was happy about it then and I am sorry for it now

Curiosity can be a doorway to a place we might not usually go. I had a lady friend explain how bored she was. She said she needed to find something that had been missing. She wanted it to be exciting again. She didn’t want any trouble just looking to make a little mischief. She wanted a man who looked like an outlaw on the outside but who had a good heart on his inside.

So, that made some kind of non-logical common sense to me. What it might mean is that one person finds another person that they think less of, while at that very same time that lesser person they found also thinks less of them too. It can happen, both persons thinking less of the other. Now, they both might be thought of as a couple, not so much hooking up with a person they call their better half, but instead their more rotten half, and so this is how it is possible that in this world we explain what it means when we say that they are involved with the evil of two ‘lessers.’

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God as Narrator

One of the Locations of the Primordial Soup

I’m looking to find the omnipotent voice of god. I’d like to use this voice, be it a man or woman, to be the narrator. I’m going to have god narrate the circumstances that befall a sleepy out in the middle of nowhere place inNevada.

Now, the trick is to channel this voice, pretend while I am writing that I’m god. It’s just a role and once I’m done playing this divine force I’m obligated by sanity to return to earth and live my mortal life along with the rest of you.

Of course I am both novelist and street performer and I want to tell you that there has been in the course of this latter work a temptation after shows to believe so much in the performance that it triggered this inflated sense of self, a sense that can much resemble the very likeness of the narrator I am trying to fabricate.

I have found certain kinds of men prone to this same temptation. Some military generals come to mind as one kind of omnipotent know it all’s. Some of our titan’s of finance qualify. Rush Limbaugh seems to have a sublime version having driven himself deaf from drug abuse and by some miracle of oracle can no longer hear but can still speak. These are what I call the false gods, for they generally worship at the altar of money, and any ten year old can tell you money is a lot of things, but unlike psychedelic drugs has never been known to be good at showing you where the great omnipotent voiced narrator is located.

It is a big job coming up with the voice of god as your narrator since among other things the thing has to be accomplished not near perfect, but absolutely perfect. About the only absolutely perfect thing I have any point of reference to is my mom. Now she was human and pretty much stuck at the same level as the rest of us here. But, when it came to loving her kids she was just out of this world perfect!

You know that old axiom, ‘I’ll know it when I see it.’? I thought John Huston did a good job of being a very bemused god. He conveyed a real sense of not caring about winning or losing, and I have to admit I’ll need some practice. I get upset with myself just losing at solitaire. But, then maybe that’s the whole problem right there. It might be hard if you were really and truly god to find some corner of the cosmos where you could go and enjoy a moment of unpredictability.

I think you are getting where I am going with this. I mean if we knew everything that was going to happen before it happened hanging out at the level of life could get pretty darn predictable, especially since everything that’s about to come true turned out to be signed off by you. So, I’m just thinking this through. I’m going to fake this narrator god voice thing, forget about true authenticity. It would be nice to have really got him down here to reprise his role, but since that’s not likely I’ll just make to do with a facsimile. Close to god is good enough.

BANKRUPT HEART

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The Year from the Rearview Mirror

Mojave Desert Spring 2011

In June I completed the manuscript to Bankrupt Heart a project I’d been working on for some 21 months. This was the first of firsts, the vow to see to the end the finishing of the second novel.

Bankrupt Heart my second novel has a tighter plot, memorable characters, sharp dialogue, and unrelenting pacing. With all that in mind I’ve spent most of the rest of the year searching for an agent. That search continues.

I have been guiding my performing dog through the twilight years. She is 16 years old. She is mostly deaf and blind. She enjoys a good bowl of food. She is stiff in the morning. By the afternoon she enjoys warming her old bones in the sun. She’s a profile in dignity.

Show business was good to me this year. Tempe Festival of the Arts had staged me in the premier venue at their event and had kept me in that location for an unbroken twice a year appearance beginning in December of 2000. The show played to record breaking audiences for most of the rest of the decade, but between the financial crisis, housing bubble bursting, the recession and tepid recovery, and of course the retirement of Lacey in 2009 the show that had worked so well at this venue had somehow through all of those changes no longer suited the space. It was hard to let go.

Lacey flying in Tempe circa 2003

Still the year was full of new opportunities: appearing for five nights at the legendary Olympic Club inSan Francisco for Father-Daughter Night, the Stanislaus County Fair, the many library programs I had an opportunity to play.

This year’s favorite audience award goes to the Chocolate Festival in Berkeley, California where I was able to attract a rather cerebral-liberal-scholarly-sophisticated-urban-international-family oriented-clan of like minded people and be this years best street audience. What does that mean? It is the quality of their being with me, their surrender, their interest, their willingness, their getting it, and wanting it. This was one of those moments when I believe we all walked away from the thing feeling as if we all got what we always wanted from one another.

The Great Ones

I said goodbye to Hokum W Jeebs, Steve Hansen, Vince Bruce and Stuartini the Magnificient. We’ll leave the ghost light on for these great showmen.

The personal and fascinating dinner with the Tony Award winning choreographer Bill T Jones who had just come from rehearsals for a show that he is mounting on Broadway in 2013! Jennifer Bain a great painter and friend for showing continued artistic courage. The reincarnation of Steve Aveson who was a few years ago flat on his back now back on both feet! A daughter who seems to get any grade she wants now in her second year at SeattleUniversity. And the brilliant Uncle Milt Gonsalves who helped make all those last minute edits and bring grammatical elegance to Bankrupt Heart.

What is just ahead? Bankrupt Heart is just now available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. I’ll be trying encourage some thousands and thousands of you to read while I continue to try and find a literary agency that can help me take my work to the next level. Next week I’ll begin outlining the story to my next novel Hot Spring Honeymoon. With luck I’ll be set to begin drafting the manuscript by March.

And finally I want to express my appreciation for the love my wife Eileen gives to me each and every day. Whether I am alone on the road traveling from town to town presenting shows, or in my office with the door closed writing from early morning until late into the night. Nobody does it alone. Eileen sprinkles that magic fairy dust over my dreams…helping me vanquish doubt and firing up the torch that lights my way.

Sunset on Las Trampas solstice

See you all in the new year…

Change of Heart

Adrift in a sea of change....

It has been time to suck it up. You know the way. You get up earlier. You try harder. You mean to apply yourself. Eat better. Drink more water. Review the plan and then work it. More important try to enjoy it.

Having now had a good stint at doing necessary tasks I can put my shoulder into the next items on the list. I keep a list now. It was a less common habit in previous suck it up chapters of my life. There is nothing quite like the thrill of being reminded by your own list of what a good or dreadful idea you had.

Affirmations are everywhere. For one thing I am happy to eat an apple just now. Perfect! Having just completed my second long fiction project I was heartened to read that the next thing to do ought to be something different. Just buckle up into that desk chair and put that imagination into gear and if you were driving slow and carefully this time go fast and carelessly.

There is nothing quite like being your own obstacle and it has been my great fortune and curse to be unable to stop myself. I’m speaking of writers block. It isn’t to be confused with the pain we go through to write well.

Sucking it up is approached from the best and worst directions. You try and close in on the one thing. You’ve got to try and not try. You have to guard against flab. You must have the courage to poke your deepest weaknesses. Great! Just what I want to do.

I’ve been annoyed today by a formatting dysfunction. I haven’t lost any time, yet! I’ll try it again. I’m busy right now. It was on my list. Post something for the holidays. Get with it Smith. I’m entering the dangerous sink where like most of you two days will be used for ritual. I’m grateful. I need the break. A good sucking it up comes into better view alongside a good patch of sloth and excess time at the table where I’ll put the sucking it up into some kind of jujitsu reverse gear. Merry Christmas…….