Category Archives: Public Diary

Renewal, Part Three: She

Arriving in LA on Sunday night I had dinner with Lili VonSchtupp and Funny Eddie, my best friends. I was so relieved to finally be with them that i must have babbled all night. We had Asian food and went on a pie quest, then I stayed the night at their house and spent the morning in a very long discussion with Lili about a million things. She had to focus on the Hollywood Burlesque Festival that week, so this was really our only chance to catch up. It was awesome, but far too short. I love these people. They are heart and soul to me.

May 22nd – 23rd, 2017

Monday I started my week at the Magic Castle in Hollywood, CA. My … 14th(?) engagement at that amazing establishment. I was greeted with ‘Welcome Home, Mr. Hannibal’ as I was ushered in the front door.

Yeah, welcome home, indeed. The old familiar sights, sounds and smells … here I am, once more. Home, showplace, playground. The happiness in that place, the magic .. I’m rambling. Four shows a night, late close-up. I love my work and I was especially ready after my long weekend at Beyond Brookledge.

Just before my first show, I was asked to help facilitate a proposal. This happens every so often and I was really happy to oblige. I had the couple seated at my table and … you can view the results here: The Proposal.

I stepped out into the main bar area, after. Pretty good crowd, especially for a Monday. There was a young woman called Monique there with some friends. Now, I’ve known Monique for a few years; she enjoys the Castle and she likes the Hannibal show, and so she’s often on my guest list when I’m in Hollywood. We’re casual friends. The group spotted me and said hello, they were in great spirits and really happy to be there. Who wouldn’t be. Monique asked if she could buy me a drink and I told her to surprise me. A few minutes later, the valet brought a tasty beverage back to my dressing room. Nice. Welcome home, right?

I make my living primarily by reading people. Little signs and body language broadcast how the act I’m doing is going over … when it’s time to do a move. So tell me: how did I miss the (now obvious) signs she was sending me?

I got a text from her, asking if I’d like to hang out after I was done for the night. A bite, or maybe a movie at home? I let her know how late I’d be getting out (around 1AM) but if she was still interested, sure.
I thought nothing of it. A friend wants to hang out a bit. Cool.
“Why don’t we meet at your apartment?” she suggested.
I thought nothing of it. My place is close to the Castle, so sure. Cool.
We met at my place and we drank some wine and watched part of ‘Chef’ and talked about … various topics. She touched my knee, my arm. She laughs easily and honestly. Her smile is almost always there, and genuine.
I thought nothing of it. This was pleasant. She’s interesting. Maybe I should ask her back to the Castle later this week, see if she’s interested in me. She’s really pretty and I really like her and maybe I have a chance of … romance? Cool?

Let me stop. Yeah. There’s a happy, affectionate, intelligent woman in my apartment at 2AM, and there because SHE asked ME … and I’m wondering if she MIGHT be interested in me enough to meet up later for a dinner date at work. How can I be SO bright and SO dim at the same time?

Finally, she recognized (thank God, who knows how long I might have remained oblivious) that I just wasn’t getting it, so she told me flat out. “Listen, I think you’re really beautiful, and I’ve been physically attracted to you for a really long time and … I’d like to stay the night, if you’d like that, too. Nothing has to happen, I’d just really like to keep talking and fall asleep together.”

I still came close to not understanding. My brain just didn’t process …
Look, for a few years I’ve been shown by several people I really cared about that I’m just not that physically attractive to them. Verbally, casually … and I get it. My girth does not lend itself to the typical Western social norm of ‘attractiveness’. Plus: I’ve been through some big storms, lately. Sex has been used against me as a weapon and as a punishment. I had completely convinced myself that … in a purely sexual sense, that that part of my life was over.

And she put her hand on my face and she looked into my eyes and I saw real desire. She wasn’t acting. More, she was leaning in to kiss me.
There was a spark I haven’t felt in a very long time, and we were kissing honestly, deeply … and I let myself relax into the moment. That also hasn’t happened in a very long time. She was warm and soft. I could smell her skin, and lightly, her cologne and a vague hint of whiskey. Her kiss tasted of wine and a sweetness I don’t have words for.

She stayed.

She stayed well into the next day, until she had to leave: her family was coming into town, and she had some prior commitments. I watched her ride away and wondered in my betraying brain if I’d ever see her again.

I busied myself about my week. The Castle rocked every night and I was in my element, taking the people on my magical 20 minute journeys. I had a giant of the industry compliment me publicly on how I handled a particularly tough crowd. (Read: drunk) I was loving every minute of it.

I had an extended day with my friend Lindsay, who is nearing her one year wedding anniversary and happier than I’ve seen her in awhile. Lots of conversation, lots of jokes back and forth, lots of catching up. We had dinner at the Castle (with a rainbow of Macarons for dessert!) and watched Murray Sawchuck’s show (dazzling, but I was disappointed he didn’t do his signature CD act) then off I went to work while L enjoyed the rest of the artists.

Wednesday I joined my friend Andrea Marie for food in Hollywood. We eased our way past the colorful people on Hollywood blvd and to our chosen restaurant … which was closed while they shot a show on the street it was on. Welcome to LA. We Ubered (it’s a verb, too) over to Toi and had a splendid Thai dinner among the sights. Seriously, check it out sometime. Again, stories of Faire (AM is a Rennie, too), catching up and an all around great evening. I could get used to this city, you know? Afterward we headed over to the Castle where she met up with some friends and I did my ‘job’.

My LA friends really have a way of bringing my joy to the surface, and I treasure them all.

And Monique, you ask?

We had ourselves a nice, though brief, romance. We talked. We shared. Talking on the phone, texting back and forth. We made plans for part of the weekend, and we hoped for more time together. As it turns out, because of Memorial day, I had an extra day on the apartment, and so we had our first actual date. (May 29th) I took her to 25 degrees for my traditional Orange Whip and truffle fries, then to the final night of the Hollywood Burlesque Festival. Lili had asked me to do a number in the final show, so here we were. My friends: Monique is an absolute delight. She understands my passion for my work and my humor. She literally spreads joy everywhere, and her laugh is never far away. Beautiful, sophisticated, yet not afraid to be vulnerable and honest with me. It was a great date.

For my act, Lili wanted ‘Bookends’ (the elf boot story) I wasn’t sure it was the proper thing to close a burlesque festival, but I trust Lili so of course, that’s what I did. My last act of magic in my whirlwind two weeks in Cali, and it went over huge. Laughter, tears, people’s hearts were moved, and the woman who was there with me was looking on with adoration.

We went back to my place for the final night, and talked into the wee hours, and loved, and held each other.
The next day we soberly said ‘Farewell’ and parted. There’s a whole country between us.

But we communicate every day. And when she knows I’m going through rough experiences, which of course I still am, she calls and gives me her time. She heals my hurts. She posts her affection for me publicly on her social media. She tells her friends about me. She makes art for and about me. She’s still interested, and I finally understood. We don’t (as the saying goes) ‘complete’ each other:

“Two beautiful, whole people. Two people who worship love and sow joy. Two complete people with beautiful scars that fit together … beautifully.”

We are making plans to be together soon, in North Carolina, so she can see Christopher’s hometown. Did I mention she likes Christopher a little better than Hannibal? Seriously. We aren’t labeled: For now we are simply taking it as it comes and patiently enjoying each other. As it should be.

My friends and fans have noticed that I’m happier than I’ve been in a long time. I’m wearing it proudly, and it’s easing the journey.

So, there you are. Renewal in three parts. My twelve days in California renewed my purpose, my heart, and my motivation.

I feel beautiful, again.

1 Comment

Filed under Public Diary

Renewal, Part Two: Phantom Theatre

I awoke in time for a quick shower and change of clothes before heading down for a very special showing of Michael Whelan‘s artworks. I’ve been a fan Mr. Whelan’s work since his epic painting for “Bat Out of Hell II” graced that album, not to mention the “Dark Tower” series. There were champagne toasts and speeches, but I was wrapped up in the paintings … a nice lady was also inspecting the art and we had a brief chat about heart and art and the journey between. Later I found out this was none other than Olivia De Berardinis, whose amazing pin-up paintings and drawings I’ve admired since I can remember. I was a bit starstruck.

After a decent time spent in the gallery, we made our way down the street to dinner. I manged to overcome my anxiety of new people in small crowds and made a few new friends. The food was excellent and, even after the stress of travel and the long day, i was able to relax and get into a good mindset for my spot later. And then … things started turning, and slowly started getting real.

I’ve mentioned being starstruck and how it doesn’t happen to me often. I’ve tasted a little bit of fame, so celebrities are generally not intimidating to me. Then Paul Reubens (the artist who created and performed Pee Wee Herman) walked into the party. I was floored. Here’s an artist who created work on his own terms and gained the world through a character he invented … lost it all and, through sheer determination, made an inspiring comeback. I’m not stretching to say that he’s been a hero to me. I waited until he had said hello to friends and ate his dinner, then approached him about taking a picture … I didn’t want to interrupt his evening, but I really wanted to talk to him. He was at once shy, reserved and (conversely yet simultaneously) commanding of the entire room. He was a perfect gentleman as he declined taking a picture with me. He explained it just wasn’t a good moment for him, but possibly later in the weekend would be better. No problem, I totally get it. I was happy just to have a few words.

I left a bit earlier in order to get prepared for my performance. Erika had asked me to perform ‘The Naked Truth’ to close the evening show, and I was more than happy, though suddenly nervous. Lots of people I admire and respect and I was going to … yeah. What was I thinking, right?

The closing show for Friday was in the Chapel. All the usual accoutrements of an old Spanish chapel, including a thirty foot gold wall behind the pulpit, which I dubbed the ‘Papel Climbing Wall’. Well, I thought it was funny. Performances were accompanied by Kristian Hoffman (incredible), and began with a moving performance of Act 5, Scene 5 of Macbeth by Lindsay Benner (serious chills – she walked down the aisle of the Chapel in a robe, holding a candle and mesmerizing us all). 12141609_892943894076628_7503997406796079952_n

The act just before me was Prince Poppycock, an operatic harlequin.  The Prince absolutely blew me away with (among other songs) the most powerful rendition of ‘Rock N Roll Suicide’ since Ziggy himself. No exaggeration, the voice, the affectations … this was a broken heart proclaiming victory for all it was worth. I really shouldn’t be brought to tears just before a Naked Truth show.
(If you are unfamiliar with the Naked Truth, I describe the show here: Exposed.)

And then I was on. I stumbled through ‘Kate and Edith’ while staring out into the blackness. With the lights in the Chapel dimmed, all I could see was the spotlight, the stained glass, and a void. I had forgotten how much I rely on eye contact during this piece to flesh out the humor. One cannot mug to a black mirror. It wasn’t badly relieved, but after the high caliber of acts before me, my ‘fraud’ feeling was loud and harsh. About halfway through, I realized I had failed to prep anyone to lead the audience up … I was on my own in the dark. I very nearly fled to the backstage, and it was only the anxiety of how I might be viewed following that escape that kept my feet glued. I set up the audience for what was about to happen, and the silence was just heavy on me. I had no idea of how they were taking any of this (or honestly, if they were still out there at all). So I stripped, and I cued the music … raised my arms and … nothing happened. I could sense no movement, no sound for at least 20 seconds, which (trust me) is an eternity standing in terror in a spotlight. Then, from behind me, Poppycock stepped up, grabbed a pen and began writing, and the audience moved. I was suddenly completely surrounded and pens were moving furtively over my skin. People were frowning in concentration, some were crying and clumsily hugging me. I knew of only three specific things:

Poppycock finished and stood close by in support.
Jeff McBride came up and wrote many words .. completely covering my right shoulder. He wrote in a flourish, sober but whimsical, and honestly only Jeff McBride can accomplish that.
Through a trick of the reflections, I saw Paul Reubens’ face in the second row. He didn’t come up, but I could tell he was moved. I had his silent support.

When they were finished, I turned slowly to show the entire canvas, took my bows and left the stage. The response was loud and prolonged, and I shuddered my way back up toward ‘normal’.

Epilogue. 
I put on pants, leaving  the majority of the writing exposed, and followed Erika to a small room. For the next hour or so the audience came through in small groups and talked with me about the act. Some had questions, some simply wanted to let me know how they felt. They brought me water, and one brought me a bit of ice cream. It was surreal and beautiful. At some point I got fully dressed, because I was catching a chill. The ‘comedown’ from a Naked Truth show can be brutal, but I wasn’t alone. There was love in every direction.
Paul Reubens came in last, and alone. We spoke for over half an hour. He told me his feelings about what he saw. As private an individual as he is, I don’t feel comfortable sharing everything that was said without his approval, but he admired what I did. We spoke of art and fame and obesity. He was kind and open. I gained a friend.
As he was leaving, he paused and said,
“How about we take that photograph now?”

Leave a comment

Filed under Public Diary

Renewal. Part One, Getting There

I was asked to perform and be a part of what I can only describe as a magical art festival in the desert. Beyond Brookledge, in Riverside, CA at the Mission Inn Resort. I would be performing Friday through Sunday, then heading to Hollywood for a week at the Magic Castle, then finishing up with a guest spot at the Hollywood Burlesque Festival.

Friday, May 19, 2017 I got out of bed at 2:15 AM in order to make a 5 AM flight. Quick shower and final check on the bags; it’s going to be nearly two weeks before I’m back at my Honeycomb, so all of my performance clothes and show props are carefully packed away. Arrived at the airport in plenty of time and parked in the long term lot.
I was recognized by several of the Delta check-in team and it makes me feel semi-famous every time. Truth is, I get to fly a lot, and I kinda stand out. You know?

Surprise bump to first class, this is a good sign. I need this trip, which isn’t really going to pay a lot, to renew my enthusiasm for my work and my art. I’ve been far too down on myself and I need to rekindle the love of what I do, and find some admiration for myself. Hollywood and the Castle always help in that regard, so I was hopeful. Anyway: First Class. Had a bite of breakfast and slipped on my headphones. Today’s traveling/ sleeping music was Marillion’s latest album: FEAR. Slept hard for a couple of hours, then slowly awoke over the midwest and looked through the movie selection. I chose ‘Founder’. Michael Keaton portraying Ray Kroc, the ‘founder’ of the McDonald’s franchise beast. Fascinating, Keaton may be the best actor of my generation. Yeah. I said that.

Landed at LAX without incident and collected my bags. Los Angeles International Airport always reminds me of U2’s album ‘The Joshua Tree’. No idea why, but I find myself humming “… and you give yourself away…” over and over.

Erika Larsen, my host, sent me a text letting me know that her brother Dante would be picking me up for the drive to Riverside. Initially I was going to cab f444eb9b565ec6f5cfbcfead83923e30_f8or Uber, but she felt this would be a better plan, and she was correct. The drive out took well over three hours. Traffic was snarled and slow the entire journey. Dante wasn’t much on conversation, but he was an extremely good companion. We finally pulled up to the Mission Inn in the late afternoon. Just looking at the outside was stunning.

I checked in and was directed to the convention ‘hub’, where I got my credentials and a handful of totems, including original pieces of art from Olivia and Michael Whelan.

First thing on the agenda was a quick Q&A with the Amazing Jonathan. He was, despite all of h20170521_000211is health problems over the past few years, in really good spirits and energy. When this was done, I found my room and had a quick power nap .. I was worn out from the road, and this first night was going to be a long one. My room was gorgeous … Spanish themed and a feeling of real history. I dozed off under a high ceiling and tried to mentally prep for the night ahead. In retrospect? I didn’t have a chance.

<to be continued.>

Leave a comment

Filed under Public Diary

May 11, 2017

Journal

Bit of a whirlwind, the past couple of weeks. The Monthly Monday Magic show pulled about 15 people. Strong audience, powerful feels, but I question my ability to draw people anymore. This wasn’t helped by the small crowd at Citylight the following Sunday. The people who came were awesome … but I’d certainly like to attract more.

Short travel to Greensboro to see Lexie in Peter Pan: she’s powerful and rules the stage, but doesn’t have the confidence in herself offstage, yet. She cannot see how she affects people. (Doesn’t that sound a bit familiar?) Toodles almost stole the show, he’s a natural. The following night was a corporate show in Durham, followed by dessert and a deep conversation/ confessional with Katie A. (which was more needed than I knew). I see some things from a better perspective. Time to leave Faire? I think so … I never want to dread working, and I know that bitterness wouldn’t be helpful at all to that atmosphere. It was a great run, and lots of laughter happened … I want to part on good terms and on the proverbial high note.

USO Warrior Reset – three great days in Jacksonville. I’m getting the groove better, feeling the message and relating to the group. I’m proud of my role, helping them connect with the USO team, and with each other. I want to reach out further than these boundaries.

Long time in the car over the past couple of weeks, lots of time to look at myself and what needs improving, where I want to go next, what kind of legacy I’m leaving in my wake, what does success really look like? I wonder if the help I’m giving really lasts.

Hollywood is upcoming, so I’m in rehearsals for that. Performance therapy … Eddie and Lili therapy … straight, hard talk and love on the west coast.

In my prayers I’m dealing with regret. I hope I’ve decisively broken some cycles … so people can heal and move on. Time will tell.

After the final day of USO I went over to Topsail, where i spent my summers as a boy. I collected some shells for an idea I had for a routine20170510_141906, then sat on the beach as the evening turned to twilight. The ocean was calm, and I studied the horizon, getting the nostalgia I’d left there when I was 12. The sea was bright green in the shallows, and rolling over to deep blue about thirty yards out. I reflected on the journeys I’ve been on in the four decades since I last sat there. Have i lived up to that boy’s dreams?

You know … I have. I’ve even exceeded what he imagined. I can be proud of this road. For the most part, I’m walking it well.

Leave a comment

Filed under Public Diary

Monday. May 1, 2017

Journal

I have nothing but the entire world to gain. I have cried and i have laughed … and laughing is much better.

Saturday I spent cleaning the house, doing laundry and prepping for Monday’ upcoming show with Brandon Barber. I’m really interested to hear the story he’s bringing. Took a wold around my neighborhood and daydreamed by a lake, under a tree for an hour or so. Fought with myself for a long time about going out busking again, and I won the battle – rent is due, bills are due, most especially the lawyer’s fee … I went out because of the money, and I should have known better. I would still go, but I would have found a better reason. As it was, Saturday night turned into a disaster.

The was a woman who paused ‘just for a minute’ to watch the show. She was in her late fifties-ish and fairly conservative in her dress and demeanor. She enjoyed the show, but got frustrated with me not explaining to her how everything worked. She stuck around to watch a second time, and, after I was done and I was collecting money, she picked up the cards from the table to look at them more closely. Rude, but … it happens. Finding nothing, she insisted on looking at my sharpie, examining the table, everything she could think of. Finding nothing, she stood and watched for a third show, visibly frustrated, angry, and upset. She demanded that I confess to her the inner workings of the show. I tried to assuage her frustration by comparing my show to plays and movies: you don’t get to always see behind the scenes, but she wouldn’t have any of it. She wrote down my name and said she was going to have me ‘checked out’ so that she could read how I do what i do. I gave her the title of my DVD …

Saturday night was filled with hooligans. People were throwing cups from the upper ledges, and security was having a bit of a time. Lots of ‘leashed dates’: “I want to watch this guy!” “NO! We are late and you need to come ON. RIGHT NOW.” Gender played no part in this; I heard that same dialogue play from both directions.

I called it a night early when I felt it had just become futile. No one’s fault, really. Bad nights happen, but I left feeling terrible. Arrived home and showered, had a mug of tea and some green time, then felt a bit better. The bills will get paid, somehow.

Took a sleep in on Sunday. Made a bit of breakfast and read from Hogarth’s diary. Got a bit of writing and practice in and spent the evening watching the Glen Campbell biography “I’ll Be Me”. Glen (as I’ve noted before) is a hero of mine, and a favorite of my father’s. The film touched deeply on his illness (Alzheimer’s) and his ongoing relationship with his children, his wife, and his music. Touched me deeply. I miss my children, and this brought a lot of those feelings home in a painful way. Worth watching, for sure, but I wasn’t prepared. I sat up until the wee hours, writing in depth about the people I miss. Parents, family, best friends.

Now it’s Monday. In a few hours I’m going onstage. I have lots to talk about, and I hope for a decent turn out, especially for the venue and Brandon’s sake. There will be magic, no matter what. Watching the bio reinforced in me the crucial aspect of being vulnerable in my art, like a songwriter putting his heart in the air, so will I in these personal, public shows. i wonder how it will be received. It’s okay to do this.

A friend told me this morning that it’s okay to forgive myself. Even when people I’ve hurt try to amplify their pain and paint me as worse than i actually was, I can embrace the truth and love myself.  I am a good, decent man, and I think I’m proud of me.

What a concept.

Leave a comment

Filed under Public Diary

Friday, April 28, 2017

Journal.

Woke up early to help Dani (Gold Angel) get her furniture moved from my front room. She’s excited about having her very own place, and it’s contagious. I sat on the front room sofa and took stock of what’s still stored there. It’s okay.

Short meeting about a new restaurant venue. Aix en Provence. A cozy French restaurant that will serve nicely for the dinner show. The string trio also seem pleased. Looks like it’ll happen at the end of May, and hopefully become an ongoing event.

Returning home, my recent turmoil and loss tried to distract me, so I rehearsed. Exercised a deck until my hands and mind were sore … then started on the initial draft of what will hopefully become a short film I want to make. I like the concepts that are coming to mind, and it helps to funnel the pain onto paper. More on the film later.

Speaking of film – the ‘Cups’ video (Link here) is averaging between 10, 000 – 15,000 views per day. I’m stunned. What is the definition of ‘viral’? What will the end result be, other than inspiring me to make something even better, more from the heart?

18156422_10155342954735955_6703213230379332939_o.jpgSpent the evening at my favorite busking pitch at the Epicentre … Neil Diamond was in town and that crowd was out for fun. Great shows, great hats …. a night really good for my soul.

I’m hurting for some friends that are hurting. I can’t disclose details in this forum, because it’s not my business to do so – but I’m striving to be the kind of friend that i sometimes need.

So. Home safe and sweaty and grubby. Tired and sore, but in a ‘did really good work’ kind of way. I made people laugh, I gave them some astonishment, and I made new friends. Shower … then deep sleep.

Let tomorrow bring its own adventures and challenges. Today was good.

Leave a comment

Filed under Public Diary

New Love

I had lunch today with a friend, an artist I respect who worked with me on a project a few years back. We talked about art, and possibilities and the challenges of the future. Opportunities were presented, plans were jotted down, and I left with a feeling of hopefulness, but also something more.

I’ve been jaded for about two and half years, as I watched the world I lived in and trusted crumble slowly to pieces. I’m left with my talent, my wits, and lots of time. I’ve lost a lot, but this story isn’t about loss. It’s about love. New love. A love I found on my way home from lunch.

I’m respected. I do good, quality work that I can be really proud of. I help and heal people with my art and my voice. I have a gift and I haven’t shirked in using it. I’ve always felt I could be a great partner to someone who truly believed in me. Someone who would stay beside me when I was overjoyed, sad, kind, or mean. I found that person. It just so happens to be me.

It’s okay to love me. It’s okay to sacrifice for me … so I’m going to. I’m going to plumb the depths and really love the man I am. I had to reach the bottom, I had to be betrayed and mocked and stepped on, but I recognize my strength. I will rise above all of this.

In my flailing post on Facebook, a gentleman I used to attend church with asked me: “DO you have any Jesus left in you at all? Let Him be a shining light for you.” All I could think was: “Man … where the hell have you been for the past few years? Why haven’t you come to me before this to hold up your Jesus lifesaver?”

In me? There’s the concept and beautiful idea of the forgiving, all-loving, healing, magician Jesus. I can strive to BE that, and love my neighbors AND my enemies … #rebeljesus makes wine, loves everyone, heals the sick and flips some freaking tables when the pompous, holier-than-thou, thieves in the temple are desecrating the idea of love and forgiveness. BUT FIRST, I must love myself. I must allow the Magdalene to anoint my head when I need it.

With the love I give myself, I’ll be better able to serve my art and my audience. Love breeds love. I forgive me. I love me. I’ll be there for me, even in the darkness. I’ve spent too much time trying to beg love from those incapable of giving it, so now it’s on me. I’ll stumble, sure, but in the end, I will win.

If you think this is just a self serving post, well … you aren’t wrong. Sometimes these are just for me. Perhaps, though, you’ll find some wisdom here you can use … I hope that’s true, too.

Leave a comment

Filed under Musings, Public Diary