Tag Archives: Music

November 18, 2017

I was going to sit this season out. Just let it slide by and focus on other things. Then I was gifted with a ticket, so i put on my armor and went to the final weekend of the Carolina Renaissance Festival. Former home of Hannibal the Liar.

It was odd, being on the other side of the stage, playing the part of a patron. Old cast-mates greeted me with love and hugs, and I was immediately welcome. I saw shows i never got to see as a performer, I saw the first joust I’ve seen in over 3 years. I saw love and joy being dealt right out on the street. I watched a brand-new game get created. I danced a little. I rocked out with the Craic! I turned my face up to the surprisingly warm November sunshine. I was home, even though I wasn’t performing. (That’s kinda alien to me. They loved me without anything other than simple love in return. They just … loved Me. For Me.)

So I’m learning. Perhaps i do have some value. A good friend slightly drunkenly told me how much I meant to her life, her daughter’s life … another told me of how her father, who lives in basic solitude, had heard of me somewhere.

I went to dinner with the Angels, laughed and dished and ate … then came home to continue work on the ‘new thing’. I feel loved. I feel confident. It’s a really good day.

Off topic, but important: The new book is now available on Amazon, both in Paperback and on Kindle.

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Doubt truth to be a liar; But never doubt I love.

The Monday Night Tease Adventure, Part Four.

And then it was simply time to start. The house lights went down, the stage lights came up, and we simply did our jobs. Some of the memories are faded, but there are some crystal-clear photographs in my mind.  I had the advantage of seeing the stage and the audience through the entire program. I won’t be able to fully capture the experience of being there, but I can give you my perspective, and my feelings. Here’s how the show looked to me, sitting up in the box, stage right.

Tuba Heatherton opened with the Monday Night Tease theme song, and Lili took her place in the MC spot. She’s funny, brash, offensive, and the best damned MC I’ve ever worked with. Bo Toxic got things going with leather and Joan Jett. All punk attitude and heavy-metal sexuality. Oh Olive reprises a Charlie Brown number, portraying Linus … I’ve never seen a ‘security blanket’ live up to its name quite like that. As she walked off stage, she screwed her thumb into her mouth and ruined my childhood.

Rob … Rob the Balloon Guy. I’m not going to describe this act, because you need to see it live, and i hope you’ll get the opportunity. I’ll just say that this creative use of folding chair and balloons will never be outdone. I’ve seen it three times now, and I laugh myself to tears every time. Caramel Knowledge portrayed Nick Fury like Samuel L. Jackson only wishes he could, and Egypt Black Knyle closed out the first half with ‘Question of U’, one of my favorite deep-cut Prince songs. (Christ, I miss him.) In the midst of all the awesome shenanigans, Patrick the Bank Robber ‘called’ Lili to wish her a fond farewell. It was funny .. but i could feel her holding back emotions.

Intermission and i got a few minutes with Andrea, which helped me focus. The show was reportedly going as well as I thought it was, and she seemed quite happy. I probably wasn’t good company, because … well, reasons.

My friend in atheism Heather Henderson opened set two with an unabashed act as a nun, using multimedia and ‘Dear God’ as her music. This was the point when the show really pulled me in. Eddie kept checking to make sure I was cool … love that clown. Nikita Bitch Project did her killer Godzilla act, Eddie owned the room in the way only he can, and Sheila Starr Siani put me in a spiritual mood with another powerful Prince song: ‘Thieves in the Temple’.

Interlude, only in my head. This is a room full of love. Everyone here is supportive and giving and SO enthusiastic about everyone else doing well. No thieves in this temple, Sir. It’s brimming with love and talent and beauty.

Matt Finish closed out the musical numbers with the most erotic version of ‘Dontcha’ I’ve ever witnessed. The attitude, the confidence, the magnificence of his performance made me almost wish I didn’t have to follow him. Seriously, people, do you see how beautiful he is? How flawless his body is? I’m supposed to go and be vulnerable and peel off my own shirt after that guy? I … can’t. I’ll do a few card tricks and pay tribute to Lili and get everyone really happy and use my skills as a speaker and magician and just … not do the Naked Truth. I’m ashamed.

Later, in a quiet moment, I asked Matt why he didn’t write anything on me. His reply was: “No one has ever said anything that could hurt me.” Damn, son.

I was introduced. I don’t remember walking on … I know I did card tricks and I remember realizing that I had to do ‘Naked Truth’. This room, this moment, was exactly the reason i created the thing in the first place. I need to give this to Them. I need it for me, and I’m the only one who can do this. I stripped. I stood, sweaty and nearly naked under unforgiving lights and my music played and I stretched out my arms and I let them come. And I felt fear in the mass of people around me. And sharpie ink stings my skin, so I felt each word burning. And they wept, adn i found my voice trying to comfort them. “It’s alright, I’ve got you. I see you.” And some couldn’t come, it was too much, too real, so they stayed in their place and lent me strength and some came after and told me their words. They were not ready to burden me fully with them, but I had helped in the simple act of helping the others, and they could bear their burden a little easier.

Maybe it sounds woo and new-age or silly. But I can just tell you it was real. To everyone in the room, and especially to me, with my shoulders heavy and my skin on fire, it was real. It was love.

They gave me their fear and they gave me their pain and, when they were done, I spoke and lifted the hearts back to celebration. Couldn’t tell you what I said, but the right words were there for me. (On stage, they always are.) Eddie unleashed a barrage of balloons and the music came up and there was dancing, and Lili was snapping selfies with everyone, tears in her eyes and that dangerous grin she has.

I said goodnight to my friend, and wished for a bit more time. So many things to talk about, but –

We danced, and then we feasted, and we bragged and we complimented and we took photos and made silver until the wee hours. The doors closed, and we solemnly walked toward new adventures.

I cannot imagine how she feels, I can only try to be a friend and a comfort. She’s not done, not by any means, just because this chapter is closed. Lili and i spent most of the next day discussing everything: the past, the future, how to survive the present … she recorded some of it. You can listen in here.

Monday Night Tease affected thousands, changed the world for the better, and we put her to bed right. I’ll carry this honor and tell this story for the rest of my life.

And I swear it’s all true.

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More Things in Heaven and Earth

The Monday Night Tease Adventure, Part Three.

Monday, September 4, 2017

I left my house in Charlotte early Monday morning; I was traveling from Charlotte to Phoenix, and from Phoenix on to LAX. There was a long layover in Phoenix, and it turns out it was a good thing that there was. The flight out of Charlotte was delayed, and then delayed again. I was starting to get nervous about the timing when the person in charge of the gate announced that the “mechanical issues had been fixed to satisfaction”, and we would be boarding right away.

A side note: if you happen to find yourself working the gate for a major airline, please do not announce that “mechanical issues have been fixed to satisfaction”. There’s really no need for the last two words of that sentence! Just tell us its “fixed” and don’t let our imaginations get away with us. Thank you.

The flight to Phoenix was fairly uneventful, which all good flights are, and I was able to nap for a good portion of the way. In Arizona, even though my layover have been cut short, I still had plenty of time to get from one end to the other. Phoenix has a nice, comfortable, small airport. Along the way to my gate, I came across a site that I had not seen before. Now, I’m all for being comfortable while traveling, and I’ve seen people traveling in pajamas, in shorts, etc. The young lady going from one gate to another in Phoenix, however, was wearing a bright blue string bikini. She had sandals on, she had her backpack on her side, and she was rocking her beachwear un-selfconsciously. Took me a second to reconcile what I was seeing. Hey … more power to you, miss.

I got to the gate I Just as they’re beginning the boarding process, and I settled into my seat. Quick hop over to LAX, without issue or mechanical problems … little blessings. I had only my carry-on, so I got straight out of the airport. The timing was great: Eddie and Lili were fairly close to the airport, and traffic was not horrible. (“Not Horrible” is about the best you can do around LAX.) It’s honestly like coming home when friends come to pick you up at this airport. Eddie and Lili have been big supporters of mine for years, and they are the essence of what Hollywood means to me. Artists living on their own terms, confident without arrogance, loving and supportive of others, respectful across a multitude of different scenes.

We went to grab some food (naturally at Shin Ramen), where we were joined by Tim, the owner, and his partner, Sarah. We relaxed, and we joked, we talked about the upcoming show and what was to be expected. Everything was sold out: all the standing room only spots were filled, and it looked like a great night was ahead.

While we were laughing there, Lili received a call from Brookledge. Erika was throwing a showcase for Puddles Pity Party, and we were invited to come and see the show. Lili explained that we were getting ready to prep the Three clubs for the Monday night show, and she just really couldn’t get away, but she offered the spots to Eddie and I … I’m thinking so that she could possibly have some time alone in her venue, after getting the basic setup done.

We  moved on to the Three Clubs, set the tables, lights and sound … Eddie inflated a few dozen balloons for the finale … and then left Lili to the final details. Eddie and I went over to Brookledge, said ‘hello’ to some friends, then settled in the back of the theater to watch Puddles’ show. If you’ve not seen his act, or only on YouTube or America’s Got Talent, you haven’t gotten the full effect. Seeing him live, with the heart that he pulls out, and everything about his character, from his body language and from his powerful voice and the rawness he puts into the songs he chooses … it is soul moving. He brought me close to tears several times during his act. Seriously, if you get the chance, take it. It’s a great show.

About three quarters of the way through Eddie gave me a nudge and pointed to his watch. We quietly left, arriving back at the Three Clubs to find the crowd was already moving in. I took my place over on the side of the stage and started talking myself into a good, peaceful spot for my own act. Lili was at times frantic, at times a bit sad, at times a bit gruff. She’s running the show, after all. It’s her baby, and this was its final public offering. Through all of this, there was not even a moment when she was not professional. She was in control, she had everyone’s spirits lifted, she had everyone exactly in their place and she guided the show as if she’s been doing it for 14 years.

Sitting there, watching the people, I thought about the journey of the day. I woke up on the East Coast, in my little house, and in just a few short hours i had packed in one adventure after another. And the show hadn’t yet started. Happiness is the Road, indeed. Life is funny, yo.

***

  Just before we got to places, Andrea came in and found a decent standing spot near the cameras. Having a friend there who was not in the show was comforting at a level I can’t express.

Here We Go

To be continued …

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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.

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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?”

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By the Lake

I have vivid childhood memories of feeding ducks at Freedom Park with my mother and grandmother. Delighted and terrified by the experience, and clutching the wax paper bag of ‘yesterday’s bread’.

We took the girls to walk around the park when they were small, and we brought along bread to feed the ducks … perhaps past generations of the ducks I played with. The girls were … delighted and terrified, and it’s one of my treasured memories.

In Arizona, outside the coffee shop, I watched a father and son feeding the ducks … and I wish I words for how moved I was. Life is amazing, right down to the very moments.

“There was a boy who came into this world at the hands of a holy woman in a holy place.
He wore a red coat and walked a black dog, saw them reflected in the mirror of the lake.
Lived in the shadow of the mountain, with the smells of disinfectant, dusty old leather, and the polished wood of his bed.
No more than a baby, feeding swans on the river, clutching the hand of his mother and the wax paper bag of yesterday’s bread.” ~ Marillion, “This Strange Engine”

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Two Years Ago

Some of you may think I’m publishing this just to feed my own vanity. The truth is: I want to point out to you that the simplest of kind gestures can change, even save, lives.

My Facebook memories today gave me a short letter from a lady who had seen my show. She came in disliking magic in general. I helped to change her mind, but in the interim I did so much more than I was realizing at the time. Here’s her letter:

“I was going through some things today, and something wonderful happened. This has been a difficult year, I had an injury at the beginning that deeply effected my memory. Today I found the Bicycle Steam Punk deck of cards you gave me a few years back when you changed my mind about magic, and all the memories of that entire stay at the Ritz, meeting the Artists and having the great time with my Husband, came back to me. I truly got to live it all over again, it brought tears to my eyes, and I remembered just how truly magnificent you are. All because you wanted me to remember that day whenever I looked at those cards: it worked.”
January 23rd, 2015

My gift is humble. I do card tricks and I tell stories.

My gift is mighty. It restored precious memories that were thought lost.

Your gift, though perhaps humble, can absolutely change the world. For one, for thousands … who knows?

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