Thursday, March 31, 2016

Chapter Twenty-Three.

     When I die, it will most likely be in a ridiculous fashion. This week's installment of Making Sh*t Up: An Improvised Life is about a time that very nearly happened. It's perfectly okay to laugh about it. (Come to think of it, even if I had actually died, that shit would still have been bowel-clenchingly funny.) Enjoy.


Chapter Twenty-Three
Near-Death Vacations (Intermission)
    

The last time I got stung by a bee, I was taking a piss off the side of a mountain. And I damn near fell off of that mountain. Everybody has those moments in life when the universe just seems to want to fuck with you, just to see what will happen. I tend to run into those moments when I am far away from civilization, places where if things go sideways, you’re pretty much screwed.

This is not me falling off a mountain. For one thing, I don't own that brand of ski jacket. Also, he has the wrong color eyes. And he's clearly not holding his dick.

     My family was on vacation in Colorado with some friends. They had this awesome cabin in the San Juan mountains, which I’ve always enjoyed more than the Rockies, because the San Juans feel like working-class mountains to me: not as pretentious, more accessible, rich in character. One of my favorite things to do in the mountains is to take out the ATVs on really difficult trails. (ATV, in case you are not aware, stands for All Terrain Vehicle, commonly referred to as a four-wheeler. Which I only ride in designated areas, to keep my environmental impact to a minimum. If you don’t like it, suck it, hippies.) My favorite ride is up to the summit of the Wheeler Geologic Area, high up in the La Garita Wilderness area of southern Colorado. The road up is strictly for four-wheel drive vehicles; preferably driven by people who aren’t quite right in the head.
     Calling it a road is being kind of nice. It’s more like a trail. A really shitty trail, with rocks and fallen trees, and gullies and washouts and loose dirt, and any number of natural impediments just waiting for you to lose your concentration for a second. It’s also a ton of fun, and one of the few times in my life when my brain is absolutely laser-focused on the task at hand. The trip from the bottom of Pool Table Road, where the trail starts, to the summit (the last mile of which you have to walk, because vehicles aren’t allowed inside the Geologic Area) is about 27 miles. Which doesn’t sound like much, until you’re actually on that trail, bouncing your kidneys into renal failure and loosening the crowns on your teeth. You’re already exhausted when you reach the summit, and it’s usually not until you walk back down to your ATV that you remember you have to drive that same shitty trail all the way back down, which in some ways is even harder than the ascent, because headed down you are twice as likely to lose your concentration, making it ten times more likely you’re going to do something stupid, which generally on a mountain translates to fatal. (I am not overemphasizing here, nor am I trying to be tough or cool. Any serious rider will know I’m telling the truth, which is why I also say those people – myself included – ain’t quite right.)
     My friend and I reached the summit, walked around the area for a while (to look at the incredible beauty of the place AND to try and recover a little from the trip up),  and then started walking back down to the four-wheelers. As we rounded a bend in the trail we came to a small clearing, into which walked three full-grown bull elk. I had only ever seen elk on Wild Kingdom, and they were TV-sized elk. These things were fucking huge. Don’t think deer; think mastodon. They froze, and we froze, maybe twenty-five yards apart. And that’s when I had the very humbling realization that I wasn’t Grizzly Adams, or Daniel Boone, and if this elk gang decided to get all territorial and shit, we were fucked with icing on top. (I should mention it was mating season, the time when bull elk get very aggressive, and are always looking for something to fight or fuck. I didn’t want to be on the receiving end of either of those options.)
     That was when my friend pulled out a handgun. A fucking handgun against three horny bull elk. We might as well have had Nerf darts, or fired rubber bands from our fingers. What we needed was a rocket launcher, and I was just thinking that I should have insisted on packing heavy firepower along with protein bars and water before we ever set out on this trip, and now we were going to be gored to death by a gang of bull elk, but probably not before they prison-raped us first. And that was when the three of them bounded across the clearing and out of sight. And I do mean bounded, just like they did in Wild Kingdom. They hit the tree line on the other side of the trail and simply vanished, like ninjas. But with horns.
     We breathed a sigh of relief, and continued down to the four-wheelers. Had a good laugh about the experience, fired up the ATVs and headed down. About thirty minutes into the descent we stopped to take a piss. We were on a steep switchback, hugging tight to the mountain on one side, while the other was a fairly sheer drop for a very long way. The idea of peeing off the side of a mountain was appealing to me at a very elemental, juvenile level, the same logic behind standing at a distance from the urinal to see if you can make it. I unzipped and let fly, feeling as close to a god as I ever will, when something sharp and hot stabbed me in the neck. My reflexive action was to take a step away from the pain, which was a terrible idea because there was no ground to step onto, just empty space. Halfway into the step I realized my mistake, and twisted violently to the left while trying to hurl myself away from the precipice. (I very clearly remember holding onto my penis the entire time, as if it were somehow in danger of falling off the mountain without me.) I landed on my side on the trail, between the ATVs, and screamed, “GODDAMMIT!!!” at the top of my lungs, which was very muted and unimpressive because I still had my helmet on, so it sounded more like, “Cole Blammit,” which is either an actual person’s name, or something the old prospector character would say in a Western. (I just Googled “Cole Blammit.” I was directed to several posts where people use the term “blammit” as a sort of substitute for “dammit,” but found no one by that name. So: no royalties for you, Cole. Tough shit.)
     It took me several more seconds to realize that I had, in fact, been stung by a bee, during which time I had also considered the idea that my friend – a self-medicating type who was a walking ball of stress and anxiety – had snapped up here at altitude, decided that he needed to murder someone, and had stabbed me in the neck. But no. As I rolled over to get to my feet, I saw him doubled over. Laughing his ass off. At me. Which is when I briefly considered pushing him and his fucking ATV off the side of the mountain, with a solemn promise to look after his family. I didn’t push him off, and we’re no longer friends, though not because he laughed at my near-death experience. Opportunity missed, I guess.
     I should point out that I was completely covered head to toe in outdoor gear: long underwear, jeans, button-down shirt, leather hiking boots, full-on rain gear, a helmet and gloves. The only place I was even marginally exposed was the back of my neck, where the helmet met the collar. And that’s where the little fucker got me. Which is why I firmly believe that it wasn’t happenstance. That was the Universe, wanting to see whether I would let go of my penis or not.
     Well, I didn’t let go of my penis. And I never will. In your face, Universe.

     Next Week, Chapter Twenty-Four: On The Origins of Making Shit Up.

     Make a contribution to the book by clicking HERE.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Chapter Twenty-Two.

     So, here's the thing:

     I didn't post Chapter Twenty-One last week, because it's been bat-shit crazy at my part-time job (Medieval Times, and yes, it's as kick-ass as it sounds to ride horses and play with swords), because March is our busiest month of the year because of Spring Break, when kids want to not think about school but do want to watch guys fight with sharp objects while falling off of horses, because isn't that every Spring Breaker's dream?

     Probably not. My point is, I was busy last week. Then I sat down today to actually publish Chapter Twenty-One, and I did what I always do before I publish another chapter on the blog. I read it. And I discovered something important. Something I hadn't noticed the dozen or so other times I've read Chapter Twenty-One.

     Chapter Twenty-One sucks ass.

     I'm serious. It's awful. Even though it's a completely true story, I read it out loud and it sounded like a giant, Titanic-sized boatload of bullshit. Poorly written bullshit. Now, I'm not saying everything up to this point would have made Papa Hemingway wet with jealousy, but I at least think I've been swinging for par. Chapter Twenty-One is just a great big slice into the trees, where there's poison ivy and coyotes. So, I am going to do with Chapter Twenty-One what the makers of the new Spider-Man film are doing with the first FIVE Spider-Man movies: namely, pretend like it never happened.

     And, with that in mind, I (mostly) proudly present Chapter Twenty-Two of Making Sh*t Up: An Improvised Life. 

(Oh, and plus there's no snappy photo this week. I tried. Everything looked like shit. You'll just have to read the words. You can do it. I believe in you.)


Chapter Twenty-Two
Some Shit I Learned While Making Shit Up

  
  I rarely get asked for advice about working on camera, even though I’ve been doing it for over twenty years. Maybe it’s because people have seen my work and believe I don’t have shit to contribute. But I think it’s mostly because I don’t hang out with actors. I don’t belong to any actor support group, or club, or fraternity, or whatever actors in groups call themselves. I have lots of nice acquaintances who are actors; I see them all the time at auditions, and I work with them frequently. But I wouldn’t call many of them friends. Not drop-what-you’re-doing-and-bail-me-out-of-this-Mexican-jail friends, anyway. That’s mostly on me, not them. I choose the company I keep.
     Still, I’ve learned a few things, doing this shit for twenty years. And some of these things I believe are worth sharing, on the very slight chance that a budding young actor is going to pick up this book because I was on a moderately successful PBS series back when his parents were children. So, here goes. Take it or leave it.
     Play well with others. One of the very first things you had better learn about working in television or film – or even theatre, for that matter, even though I never have – is that it is a collaborative effort. Even to pull off a thirty-second commercial takes a team of people, all knowing and doing their jobs to the best of their ability. That’s a whole bunch of folks with a whole lot of different personalities and opinions, who all believe in their bones that their job is just as important as the fucking actor’s. If you work on a set as an actor, get to know the crew; they’re the ones who actually make shit happen. Learn their names, and at least one or two personal facts about them. Understand that you will be working closely (sometimes quite literally) with them, and that you all have a job to do. You’re trying to make something that’s bigger and more important than your individual contribution. And yes, that means even if it’s just a donut commercial. And in order to work collaboratively and be successful, it would help to:
     Have some fucking humility. For me, the first rule in working in television is to remember this phrase: You ain’t all that. I say it to myself before every gig, as a sort of ground wire for my ego. I am not the most important person on the set, so I don’t need to act like it. I don’t need to bitch about how hot the lights are, or how itchy my wardrobe is, or how terrible craft service tastes. I don’t need to monopolize a Production Assistant’s time by asking them to get me a double-soy latte every fifteen minutes. And while I’ve gained some wisdom over scores of commercial shoots, I’m not a director, or a cinematographer, or a lighting designer, or a sound engineer, and I should do my level best to keep my nose out of their business. Show up on time. Do your job well. Be nice. Go home. It’s not rocket surgery.
     Thicken your skin. As an actor, you know what will be the single-most often concept you ever have to deal with? REJECTION. You are going to be told – a lot – that you’re not the person we are looking for. And here’s my problem with so many actors who consider themselves artists: they take it personally. They react to a rejection as though the client or director or producer were deliberately targeting them for cruelty. I suppose, in some very rare instances, that’s true. But overwhelmingly, your not getting cast for a particular part is just business. Okay? Especially in advertising, ad folk and their clients are looking for something specific – even if they don’t really know what it is until the moment they see it at a casting session. Nine out of ten times, it’s going to be someone who is not you. Deal with it. If you can’t handle a lot of rejection, stay out of this business. Hell, for that matter, stay out of most creative endeavors. If you ever want to act something, or write something, or sing something in front of people who are not blood family or very close friends, then you are always going to have someone in the audience who thinks that you suck. Throughout the whole of recorded history, there have always been more critics of the creative arts than people with the courage and conviction to actually practice them. So buck up, camper. Or get a regular job.
     Don’t lie on your fucking resume. That sounds like common sense, right? Guess again. I’ve seen it too many times. This is the most basic of rules; if you can’t speak fluent Portuguese, or do magic tricks, or walk on a high-wire, or competently ride a horse, don’t put it on your resume. The worst cases I’ve seen of this both involved people who said they could ride horses, when they clearly could not. In one case it was funny; an extra on a commercial lied and said he could ride for a trail riding scene we were shooting. The trail guide asked each of us individually if we were comfortable on horseback. Then we were all warned about river crossings. It was summer, and some of the horses liked to get out in the middle of the river and lay down, whether or not somebody was on their back. I don’t know if this twenty-something kid was listening to this part, or just thought he was too cool to pay attention to an actual cowboy who was trying to keep us all safe. But sure enough, we got out in the middle of the Medina River, and his horse started giving all the warning signs, and he panicked and started kicking the horse and pulling in the reins at the same time, at which point you might as well just shout to the horse, “I got no fucking clue what I’m doing up here!” which the horse was like, “No shit,” and promptly laid down in the river. The guy wasn’t hurt, just mortally embarrassed – and fired.
     The second incident was serious, because it involved a much older actor who should have known better. This gentleman was a very accomplished theater actor, and assured all involved he was comfortable on horseback. All he had to do was nudge the horse forward into a Point Of View shot from ground level. When the cameras rolled, he didn’t nudge the horse so much as kick it in the ribs, causing the horse to rear, causing him to go ass-over-teakettle backwards off the horse, landing hard and breaking several ribs and his collarbone in the process. He could just as easily have broken his neck.
     Being in front of the camera is not the place for skills learning. If there’s a particular skill you’d like to be able to put on your resume, invest your time and money and go learn it. Take music lessons. Learn to ride a horse. Go to the firing range. Find someone who is good at what you want to learn, and learn from them. And still don’t put that shit on your resume until someone qualified at that skill tells you it’s okay to do so.
     Here endeth the shit.

     Next Week, Chapter Twenty-Three: Near-Death Vacations (Interlude)

     Make a contribution to the book by clicking HERE.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Chapter Twenty.

     So, I remembered this morning that I actually posted this chapter before, way back when I was still in the middle of writing the book, and wasn't too confident that I could actually finish writing it. Except I did finish writing it, and I have been publishing one chapter a week for the last nineteen weeks, and it would be kind of stupid not to publish this one just because I'd previously put it out here. Besides all that, it's a pretty good chapter, and one every aspiring actor should probably read. Because you might not be an aspiring actor by the time you finish it, and you might just decide it's worth working just a little harder in school so you can get a real job. I'm nothing if not a cautionary tale.

     Anyway: here's is the latest chapter of Making Sh*t Up: An Improvised Life. Enjoy!

Chapter Twenty
Commercials and Shit
  
  The first commercial I ever did I was dressed up as a giant green number 5. No shit. The Texas Lottery was launching a new game – or, as some would state it, a new way to take money from desperate people who had a better chance of being struck by lightning while being mauled by a grizzly than they had of winning the lottery. The game was called Pick 3, and some ad guys in a room somewhere, who drank way too much coffee and probably never liked actors, thought it would be a capital idea to dress ten people up in giant, foam-rubber Gumby costumes shaped like numbers. I was the fifth of those people.
Like this. Except I was Number 5. Also, I'm not black.

     I think we shot the commercial on the stage of The Majestic Theater in Dallas. I also thought the Majestic had not been paying its utility bills, because the A/C was off, and it was summer, and I was in a black unitard and wearing a huge foam costume that sealed in, rather than ventilated, heat. I later learned that the producers turned off the air conditioning because it was too loud, and it interfered with the recording of our dialogue. That there were ten of us in suffocating costumes, in an old theater in the middle of a sweltering summer, with no conditioned air, seems not to have bothered – or even occurred – to the director, producer, and ad agency folk. At least, not until a couple of the female numbers started to pass out from heat exhaustion and dehydration.
     I was the “spokesperson” for the spot, which meant I had the most lines. There weren’t many, as this was only a thirty second commercial. But I found it difficult to concentrate, suffocating as I was and about to drown in my own sweat. People who work on commercials very often have to solve problems on the fly, because when ad agency guys think up the crazy shit they want actors to do, they rarely pause in their brainstorming to consider potential problems. Example: Once we all got into our costumes (no easy feat), we soon discovered that mine had a problem. Picture the number 5 in your head. See that straight line across the top? That was resting on top of my head, and my face was poking out in the sidewall of the 5. Except the costume was made of foam rubber, and so the top line of the 5 drooped on either side, making me look like a very depressed and sad number. What was needed was something to place on the inside of the top of my costume that would keep the foam rubber straight and true.
     Somebody’s ingenious solution? Glue a piece of two-by-four inside the top of the costume. And it worked.  The top of the 5 stayed straight and true. The problem (only for me, and nobody else) was that the two-by-four now rested on my head. And the costume weighed in excess of twenty pounds. And I wore that costume for ten-plus hours. I still have a groove in my head, in the shape of a two-by-four.
     I wasn’t the guy who got the worst of it that day. The dude who played Number 0 was asked by the director if he’d be willing to try a cartwheel across the stage – because what’s funnier than a cartwheeling 0? As we all wanted to make the director happy (because a happy director might remember you for his next commercial shoot), our intrepid number 0 said yes, he could absolutely do a cartwheel across the stage. So the camera begins to roll, and 0 takes a couple of halting steps (range of motion in these costumes was a joke), and begins a cartwheel, realizing too late that his arms are forced forward because of the costume, and he cannot get them over his head, and so what hits the stage is not his hands but the top of his skull. For one awful second he was frozen in that upside down position, before collapsing in on himself like a jelly donut with its filling suddenly, violently sucked out of it. Many hands rushed to the stage, to see if 0 was still alive, which would determine whether they gave him medical treatment, or whisked his corpse away to a rock quarry somewhere far out of town.
     0 survived the incident, and I think the first half of his failed attempt at a cartwheel actually made it into the final spot. I lost five pounds (mostly water), and required an IV drip to rehydrate, two numbers went down with heat exhaustion, and 0 sustained a mild concussion. All in the name of a lottery commercial.
     See? This shit is as glamorous as you think it is.
     Notice that I did not say, “All in the name of art.”  To me, making commercials isn’t art. Me saying that might piss some people off, but I don’t care. It’s my opinion, which is just like my asshole, in that I have one, just like you, and I am entitled to it. (My opinion, I mean. Not my asshole. Which is to say that I feel philosophically entitled to my opinion, given the whole free-will argument, and the First Amendment. I feel no similar sense of entitlement about my asshole, though I am grateful for it, and try not to take it for granted. And I realize I have now spent way too much time talking about my opinion. And my asshole.) My point is, to me making commercials is craft. I would go so far as to say that the best commercials are examples of good storytelling. But not art. Predator 2 is more art than any commercial I ever made.
     Which is not to say that I do commercials because I can’t act. When I first started in this business, I had the grandest of plans. I’d moved to Dallas to do commercials for a year or two, build up my resume, and then head out West to do sit-coms, and movies. But I don’t think I ever considered myself an “artist,” even then. Acting to me has always been a job – a craft, like I said. And it’s a job I’ve done for over twenty years. If I sucked at it, I probably wouldn’t have been at it so long. That would be like a chef running the same restaurant for twenty years, even though he was regularly poisoning the guests with his shitty food.
     The truth is, I like doing commercials. I LOVED doing a television series, and if the right one came along I’d jump all over it again, but I’m not disappointed that what I’ve mostly made is thirty and sixty-second little stories. It’s a different kind of acting challenge to have to create a believable character in the space of a minute or less. (Whether you like, despise, or pity the character is beside the point. The point is, are they believable?) That kind of thing requires good acting, and if you don’t believe me, take a look at the tidal wave of shitty commercials in the ether. I’m an actor, but please never call me an artist. Too many people I know who use that term for themselves don’t know how to wash clothes, or change a fucking tire.
     So, why haven’t you done more television shows and movies? A fair question, and one that I’ve only recently assigned any brain power to. My conclusions will probably disappoint you terribly, as they don’t involve drug addiction, murder, or living a double life as a Jason Bourne-like black ops agent (because that would be the most kick-ass excuse for not doing more in my career, ever). The truth is, I get bored easily. That’s why, if I ever do finish this book, let alone get it published, it’ll be a fucking miracle. I. Get. Bored. I can never do one thing for very long before I’m looking for something shiny. No, I don’t have ADD, or ADHD, or AIDS, or anything else. I simply believe that there is a lot of interesting shit in the world to see and do and experience, and I’m always afraid if I do one thing too long I’m going to miss it.
     The hardest working year of my life was the first season of Wishbone. We had 50 weeks to shoot 40 episodes of a show that was, from a production standpoint, like shooting a new movie every damn week. We averaged 60-65 hours a week when we were shooting, and that’s not counting the 8 to 10 hours I would spend in the studio on Saturdays. And it wasn’t the long hours, the weather challenges of working in Texas at any time of the year, the re-writes, the myriad of things that can and do go wrong on a film set.
      It was the fucking “normalcy” of going to the same job, every day. Doesn’t that sound stupid?
     I lived inside this one character for a whole year. Maybe Daniel Day-Lewis can do that shit standing on his head, but it almost drove me over the falls. By the end of that first year, I was giving serious consideration to strapping on a back-pack and doing the old Bruce Banner hitch hiking scene out of town. (If you never watched Bill Bixby in the TV series The Hulk, you don’t get that reference. Stop reading and go watch it right now. I can’t believe you’ve never seen that shit.) When the producers told me we might not shoot a second season, I wasn’t all that disappointed. I was exhausted. And I had no clue how to operate in polite society (I’d never had much of a clue, but being out of social circles for a year made it worse). I wanted – needed – to do something different.
     We did do a second season, far shorter than the first, and then it was over. I went from making a lot of money every week to making nothing at all, and believe you me, I would have given anything to get that “normalcy” back. The immortal 80s hair band Cinderella sums it up best: “Don’t know what you got ‘till it’s gone.” We did a year in New York, I befriended a mobster and learned some ju-jitsu, then we moved back and I started doing commercials in earnest. I suppose Wishbone was – and still is – art, of a sort. But I’m still no artist. I’m just a guy with a skill that made a small contribution to a larger idea. As legacies go, I guess that doesn’t suck.

     Next week, Chapter Twenty-One: Fuckin' Around With Fame

     Make a contribution to the book by clicking HERE.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Chapter Nineteen.

Hey you guys. I had something really witty, and kind of urbane, and downright memorable to set up this week's chapter. But it's fucking beautiful outside, and there are shiny objects that need my attention. So, here you go!

Chapter Nineteen
On The Road (Not Kerouac Style)


   
 The dog rode in First Class. I rode in Coach.
     Those were always the travel arrangements during the press junkets for Wishbone. Honestly, I was never bothered by it. I’ve ridden in cattle cars. That’s not a euphemism. I have travelled in some very uncomfortable ways, over very long distances. Coach doesn’t bother me. Everybody who bitches about flying Economy should try it on an airline in the developing world, where the larger questions are Will we even make it into the sky?, or Are we about to fall out of the sky?, or Is the goat in the next aisle giving me the stink-eye? A little perspective might make for some kinder, gentler travelers.
     I loved the press trips, because I love to travel. The armchair psychologist in me believes this is firmly tied to my wanting desperately to escape Conroe during the Bad Old Days. I love to fly, to take the train, and I love road trips. I love staying in hotels, and I absolutely love new places, new cultures, and new people. In a perfect world, Anthony Bourdain would be my older brother, and we would trot the globe together and have adventures, and maybe solve mysteries.
     I remember the first time I went to New York City. We had been invited to appear on the Today show (back in the era of the unspeakably perky Katie Couric). The first thing I remember was landing at LaGuardia airport. I thought we were going to die. I felt the landing gear go down, and looked out the window – and saw nothing but fucking water. We were crash landing in the drink, and the captain had not had the courtesy to even warn us about it. We kept descending, and it kept being water outside my window. The only thing that kept me from going bat-shit crazy was that everybody else seemed calm enough. Assuming there were at least a few people on our flight who had landed here before, I decided not to start screaming, and grabbing everybody else’s seat cushions and oxygen masks. When we touched down on an actual runway, I was genuinely surprised.
     Every stereotyped thing you have ever heard about New York City cabs is probably true. Not from this country, barely speaks English, drives like a fucking maniac. Which is not necessarily a bad thing. I’ll wager that if you could travel with your New York cabbie back to his country of origin, get in a car with him and let him drive you around, what you’d discover is that he drives that way in self-defense. Things like traffic lights, and stop signs and right-of-way are mere suggestions in most parts of the world, and you heed them at your peril. You might get jostled around in a New York cab, but you won’t get hit by another car.
     We never got to be on the Today show. We weren’t even out of Texas before we found that out. We were literally sitting on the plane when our press person got a call that a fire had just swept through the GE building at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, the home of NBC studios where the Today show is still taped. She hung up the phone and started to cry. I thought press people were supposed to be hard-nosed, and thick-skinned, or some other adjective with a hyphen in it. I had no idea what to do, so I grabbed a passing flight attendant and said, “Could you please bring her some liquor? Right away?”
    Flight attendant: “Oh. Sure. What kind?”
     Me: “All of it.”
     Even though we didn’t get to be on the Today show, we still went to New York, because we were doing a couple of in-store appearances for The Store of Knowledge. Basically they would set up a space in the store for the dog and trainer to be (behind velvet ropes and a contingent of bodyguards, for real), and families would file past, and ohh and ahh, and take pictures. And try to pet the dog. They always tried to pet the dog. There were signs everywhere that asked people to please not pet the dog. Store employees would walk up and down the long line of fans, yelling like carnival barkers, “Please do not try to pet the dog!” There were stanchions, and bodyguards, and still people would try to reach across and pet the dog.

Seriously, though. How could you NOT try to pet this dog?

     Nobody ever tried to pet me – though I did get my ass grabbed from a soccer mom once in San Diego, as I was walking up and down the line of people waiting to get in the store. That was my job during these in-store appearances – entertain the army of kids and parents who were waiting outside (some for several hours) to get just a glimpse of their favorite TV dog. The closest I ever came to feeling like a politician was working the line at these gigs. I would shake hands and kiss babies, get my picture taken with kids, and do “the voice.” I did my very best in every city. There’s an old adage in the restaurant business. My ex-wife, who still works in the restaurant business, used to remind me of it before every trip I’d take in support of the show:  if people have a great experience, they MIGHT tell one person. But if they have a shitty experience, you can bet they will tell at least TEN other people. I figured working the line, shaking hands, doing photo ops and telling jokes would ultimately be good for the show. And it was. We came off the road more popular than when we were before we left. I’m not taking credit for that, mind you. But, a soccer mom grabbing your ass may be one way of expressing: Hey, I like your show.

     Next Week, Chapter Twenty: Commercials and Shit.


     Make a contribution to the book by clicking HERE.