Saturday, August 12, 2006

You can't make this shit up!

A nutty thing happened during one of my performances at the Promenade yesterday. While I was in the middle of the cups and balls routine, this crazy lady put something into my doctors bag that appeared to be a small folded up piece of paper. I looked at her quizzically an said, "Did you just put a bindle of cocaine in my bag?" I followed that by saying to the audience innocently, ". . . NOT that I know what a bindle of coke looks like, mind you". She sheepishly nodded no. She left and I went on with the routine. Later after the show I was curious as to what the paper was all about. I carefully unfolded the paper and saw something that just grossed me out. A large piece of one of her teeth. Disgusting!

Not so disgusting that I didn't want to bring it home, take a picture of it and share it with you here. But that wasn't meant to be. Uri the classical guitar playing psychic asked me what was in the paper. I showed it to him and told him what I wanted to do with it. He told me that was a very bad idea. He added that if I brought it home, it would surely bring me bad luck. I immediately walked to a nearby trash can and threw it away. Good riddance. Last thing I need is bad luck.

The molar of the story is that tooth is stranger than fiction.

OK not funny. . . . But I keep on trying.

Pic du Jour • Polly & Me 1986

tom photo_1
Photo by Chris Richardson

Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.

Shit getting out of hand


I filled up my tank at $3.17 a gallon and thought I was getting a deal. . . what's wrong with this picture?

Friday, August 11, 2006

Traffic is my friend • I love traffic


The Grove

Yesterday, as we ran some errands; Polly took me to the Farmers Market and The Grove. More high power retail, dining and entertainment. All I can say is WOW. As a former retail guy myself (having owned magic shops and toy stores) I have a special fascination to how malls are laid out and marketed. This place really was charming, laid out like some European town or Disney Land for that matter, complete with the fanciest double decker trolly I have ever seen thats only purpose is to go back and forth a 1/4 mile road snaking from one end of the mall to the other.

I was introduced to a store / product line I had never heard of "The American Girl Doll". Holy shit!! They took over the FAO Schwartz space and pimped it out with an orgy of doll departments that hooks these young girls like heroin to a junkie. They can't get enough. Dolls that look like them. Pick the hair, eyes and skin tone to match your own. Great concept. They sell clothes so that you can dress like your doll. Take your daughter and her doll to the American Girl Doll Cafe, have the doll's hair done at the on site salon or if the doll is in disrepair, take her to the clinic, outfitted to to look like a real doctor's office. Unbelievable.



Street performing stride

Well, at least for the last couple of days I've been feeling like I'm figuring it out again. Lots of good advice from a variety of friends. The crux of the solution seemed to be to stop caring so much. And to not start my show so soon. Bit by bit things seem to be falling into place. Switching from afternoons to evening at the Promenade really seemed to help too.

Starting to loosen up, have some fun and go with the flow. It's all good. If a show dissolves or peters out based on the ebb and flow of the moment. . . big deal. I'll light up my cigar, feel the love in my heart and go at it again.

I've been working on connecting with the audience in a more "real" way. There are points between and sometime during my routine where I ask the audience what they think about something. Then I wait for an answer. I am also getting a little better at not stepping on audience reactions in my haste to move forward. . . 5 seconds can seem like an eternity.

I've really enjoyed working the last two nights and I'm looking forward to getting out there again today. It's my job, it's what I do.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

In my "In Box" • From Peter Gross


Brave brave brave. Moving to a new town, breaking in a new pitch and then announcing your difficulty ON LINE! I just hope the reactions you get (mine and others) help you through the transition.

1. As another old dog who has spent a long time at one pitch, there is almost nothing that I fear more then trying to make my show work somewhere new (that's not some place easy like a festival). A new pitch can make you feel like a real Piker (no pun intended). Jokes don't work, timings all wrong. It feels like your first day all over again. The good news is it happens to all of us. Sometimes it even happens to me when I am on my home pitch. For me it's the nervousness and worry coming through. Remember, you got to do shows like you don't need the money. Neediness breeds desparation and desparation makes people keep their difference.

When I feel that I am stuck in a bad place I always follow this tactic: I tell my self that for today, the shows are 'just for fun'. I don't expect a dime from the audience I just focus on relaxing, having a good time and making people laugh. Even if they never stop.

I will just stand there and talk to the crowd and if people want to see a trick I will do ONE trick and then excuse them. Sometimes I do it for an hour sometimes more, but I try to break my own expectations about how I build a crowd and how soon I can start a show.

Eventually I find I adjust both my rhythmn and my own expectations to get a show off that feels good. Maybe not a huge hat but still a show where I don't feel rushed and nervious and like I am fighting with the crowd to stay. I'm sure you know all off this stuff and I feel weird giving you advice since I feel you and I are equals, but sometimes you just need someone to remind you of what you already know.

2. LA is culturally very different from Seattle. In LA entertainment is an INDUSTRY. 'Magic' and "Charm" (in the most general and literary sense) are commodities and people don't trust them unless they are packaged and pre-judged as good by someone more important like HBO ( ie, you can't be good becuase if you were you wouldn't be out here on the streets). One of the strange trends I have noticed recently is TV actors headlining at Stand Up Clubs. And not even from sit-coms. Just Soap Opera stars or game show hosts. Why would I trust that these people are funny? But people go because they have the TV stamp of approval.

3. Working across from break dancers...SUCK! You are competing against 12 guys all who are younger and have more energy then you, and all who are quite happy to work for a 1/10 of what you normally make and instead of doing one big show, plan on doing shows back to back to back all day. Yuck! They invaded Boston about 2 years ago and they are among the things that got me to skip the whole season this summer.

Finally, I have been thinking a lot about the value of venue. I have been coming to the opinion that my act is viewed completely different based on the venue. That means that routines, jokes and ideas that are quite worthy, often can't survive the up hill battle of being presented in a venue that informs your whole show ie standing on a street corner.

In LA, maybe it's a question of finding a different area of the city to work; Maybe it's a case of finding club work or restaurant gigs. I just worry that in a jaded town like LA any street venue and any street artist is going to be considered a 'struggling artist' at best, which makes it an uphill battle to present something full of charm and sublety.

Just recently I watched "America's Got Talent" and they had a juggler on who is a full time performers with a resume that includes Cirque du Soleil and Vegas and after he finished a flawless routine, David Hasselhoff said something like "Well it may be a good act for Venice Beach, but it's not really talent, right?" Not like a rapping Grandmother, or whatever other freak show/Gong Show act he was judging it against.

So Tom, keep on plugging and keep the faith. We're out there chearing for you.


Peter Gross
Funny Magic

Pic du Jour • 1910 Magician

1910 Magician

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Now that's entertainment

Hermosa Beach Comed Magic Club

I started my day out yesterday spending money I didn't have on a new microphone from Guitar Center. While it functioned perfectly, I still was unhappy with my performances. Technically, they were fine. I'm still just having trouble getting the folks to express any enthusiasm, or for that matter any reaction what so ever. Whatever. . . I worked from 4-7PM. I wasn't too happy about leaving when the traffic was finally picking up, but I had another engagement to attend to.

My old pal Mickey O'Connor was working the Comedy Magic Club in Hermosa Beach and had invited me to see the show. When I arrived at the club my vibe was low. That was about to change. The MC / Opener was a young black comic who did a nice job. I can't remember his name. It was driving me even further into a tizzy that the audience was so happy to be there and laugh at everything on the same evening that I was having trouble getting someone to even smile or nod politely.


What's cool about LA is that you never really know who might just show up to do a surprise guest set. Last night there were two special guests. The first was Kevin Nealon (from Saturday Night Live). He did a nice set to a very appreciative audience. It was cool to see him, study the structure of his comedy and lose my fucked up mood. I stared to relax and enjoy the evening.


Next up was Mickey, who rocked the room for 30 minutes without saying a word. Mickey started out on the street then worked cruise ships for the last 15 years. He and is wife are expecting their first child soon and he will be here in LA for the next 3 months. I'm sure I'll get to see more of the both of them. I wonder what gags he has worked up for the delivery. . . . cut and restored umbilical cord? Juggling the placenta. . . who knows?

vlad clown shot

Surprise guest #2 was none other than Michael Richards (Kramer from Seinfield). It was interesting to see him as a stand-up. I've been a fan of his for over 20 years and it was a real pleasure to see his unique, high energy, physical comedy. Even at his age, he still hit the floor with some very funny pratt falls several times during his set. Certainly one of the highlights of the evening.


Finally, the headliner was introduced a young comic named Darren Carter. . . "The Party Starter". Nice set.


After the show I was invited back stage to the green room where Mickey, his very pregnant wife and I hung out for a bit. Mickey introduced me to the Entertainment Director who told me to send him a tape.

Another fun night in LA. You never know what might happen. Shit, someone might actually enjoy one of my performances. . . I'm keeping my fingers and eyes crossed.

Peace out homies -

The one and only Gazzo!

Monday, August 07, 2006

A beautiful afternoon in Malibu

My morning started as as most of them do these days, with Polly waking me up with a kiss. She told me that breakfast was almost ready and that I needed to get up and make the eggs. We both love to cook and help each other in the kitchen. We had a great breakfast and discussed what was on the agenda for the day. Polly does so much for me and is an efficient administrator of my schedule. She called Buster's new school for me and arranged for us to make the short trip from our house to pick up his enrollment packet. Damn I love this woman!!


We worked around the house today. I researched portable sound systems and Polly hooked me up with a friend of hers who is in the audio end of Film and TV production. As he is also a musician, he told me of some local resources that might be able to help me out with my audio needs for the street. I also spent some time on the Magic Cafe reading magician reviews of various portable PA's.

Polly asked me what I wanted to do in the afternoon and I confessed that what I really wanted to do was to take a nice cigar walk on the beach. She thought that sounded like a great idea and off we went to Malibu. Through the Santa Monica Mountains we drove, my mouth open wide with the splendor and beauty of our surroundings.


When I said I wanted to go to the beach I had no idea what a great time I was in for. I had never been to Malibu before. When I lived in LA back in the day I lived in Orange County and Huntington Beach was was my cigar walking beach. The day was turning out even better than I had expected! Mansions on the hill, perfect 77 degree weather, a wonderful breeze, a cigar in one hand and Polly's hand in the other. We walked along the beach for a half hour or so then, on the flip side got the blanket out of the car and enjoyed the rest of my cigar on the beach.


It's so nice being in love. Truly I never thought it would happen again. But here we are, having know each other for a quarter century, enjoying our new life together. We get along so well, that most people upon spending any amount of time with us, immediately excuse themselves to throw up. That's love for you!


On the drive home we stopped at on overlook to take a picture. Moments after getting in the car, I smelled something awful. At the overlook I had stepped in something before getting back in the car. My God! It smelled like something died.


At the first opportunity Polly pulled the car over, let me out to try and clean the crap off the bottom of my brand new sandals. She got such a kick out of the situation, that she had to take a picture of me. So, here it is, me wiping poop off my sandal on the side of the road. The rest of the drive was much more pleasant and we had a great day.


Troubled mind and self doubt

Another day at the Promenade ended with me leaving before I got totally frustrated. I've been at this a long time and dealt with a lot of different situations, but the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica is as tough a place to work as I have ever experienced. The biggest problem I encountered was my mic cutting in and out today and finally crapping out. My first show was barely underway before the break dancing troupe cranked it up 40 feet away from me. On the other side a musician. I did the best I could for meager rewards.

I put a lot of pressure on myself to produce, but I've been coming up short on many levels. I want so desperately to share what I have inside of me and entertain and make people happy. It's difficult to tell If I'm getting through to these people when I see so many blank stares and apathetic audiences. And what really gets me, is when a father of two kids gives them each a dime to throw in my hat. I'm pretty sure that the bums in this town are making better money than me at this point. With so much competition, the noise factor, the heat and the world we live in; I feel like I need to go back and re-evaluate my entire approach.


On a lighter note, the weather has been gorgeous! Polly takes very good care of me and has been cooking some GREAT meals. I love being here in LA and I know If I work hard I can create a market for my many talents as an entertainer and as an entrepreneur. The time is right to plan my work and work my plan. Now I guess I just need a plan. I'll work on that.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Busker du Jour • Eliah

From my first visit to the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica I remember hearing some beautiful music on the street. It happened to be this fellow Eliah, playing an instrument I had never seen. It's called a Chapman Stick and looks to have 12 strings. His music cut to the center of my soul and made my heart soar. I encourage you to take time to watch the 31 second video clip and or the link to a 2 minute song. I'll say it again. . . take the time to check this cat out, you won't be sorry!

I bought one of his CD's today and chatted with him a bit. I told him of my frustrations trying to figure out the Promenade. He encouraged me to stick with it and assured me that when I do figure it out, ANY OTHER VENUE IN THE WORLD WILL BE CAKE. This I believe.

Beautiful Music by Eliah • Click Here

CSNY Freedom Of Speech Tour 2006

Living With War • Click Here

Traffic on the 405

In order to live in this town, you must embrace traffic. Learn to love it and things will go much smoother.

Traffic on the 405

In my "In Box"

From Kenny Jones a pal from way back, also a roomate when I lived here 20 years ago. It was Sylvester the Jester, Kenny, Tracy Buck and myself. We were renting a nice 4 bedroom house in Cerritos. A year later we moved to Westminster near Huntington Beach.


LA! Man, Thats so 80's. We were there Vertigo at 5 in the morining, parties at Bel Air mansions. You know my wife still will not beleive we hung out at the Pickfair mansion with Princess Stéphanie. Is that true? Did we do that? Did I Live That Life? So long ago and far away from where I live now. Good to hear fom you man, I need to take some time and read your blog. I would start a blog but who wants to read about the excitment of spending 8 *$%# hours tring to get a web site to talk with a F^%#*(^ dot net Web service and Sql server. Actualy I read someone elses blog about how they fixed the same problem so I guess some poor shulb might read it.

Well I've got to go. I need to edit some film & make some last minute script changes. All part of the "Biz" man.
Yall have fun In LAee


If we did hang out at Pickfair with the Buss brothers & Steph write a small accout for my wife & send to me. She will not beleive me and my memory is not good enough to fill in the details.


I'll try and get around to that. Those were special and innocent (yeah. . . right) times. We did do those things and so many more. Thanks for being apart of my life and great to hear from you.

Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Pier

Quote du Jour

“To lose one's self in reverie, one must be either very happy, or very unhappy. Reverie is the child of extremes.”

- Antoine Rivarol