Friday, November 6, 2020

Election Fatigue

Flashback: Little April, age 13. It’s a fall Friday night in Western PA and it’s been a late one. My brother Wendell’s football team is playing against some other team who’s name escapes me but you get the picture. It’s the fifth overtime, and one of the coaches keeps stalling the clock. The temperature’s dropping, the fans can see their breath and it’s starting to rain. The fans are apathetic, the cheerleaders do a half assed herky, and the players are running into each other for the sake of shoving someone. Finally one side cares less than the other, a final touch down is scored and the game ends. The victor is a blur, but we have all lost because these are hours of our lives we will never get back.

Cut to TV room. We eat Wendy’s as we watch the scores and late night TV, my dad switching the channel every time it gets too dirty. Wendell looks like he has just escaped from dramatic torture. My younger sister Skipper and my mom nod off. I scribble down some angst ridden death poetry that sounds as if Mystic Spiral wrote it.

The room is silent because there are things unspoken. Wendell is on special teams, which means while he will be on the starting lineup in a year or two he is not there yet. This means he will head out with the JV squad tomorrow bright and early. Instead of the stadium they will play on the muddy practice field and it will be even colder and even rainier. As a bonus, the rest of the family will be forced to come. Will it never end? The horror! The horror!

Fast forward several years. This is how I feel about the election. Instead of a high school football coach, it’s Trump yelling, screaming and trying to stall. Rather than a never ending Friday night under the lights it’s 2020, and specifically a very charged election season. I look at Yurick, my pet skeleton on my book shelf. We will look like him when the election results are finally revealed.

I voted for Biden. Really and truly I wanted Liz Warren. I didn’t get Liz Warren because sometimes you don’t get the pony you want to get. I spent a lot of the election season explaining this to fellow Democrats who swung for Sanders and/or Warren and were disappointed. When I wasn’t doing that I educated Trump supporters who couldn’t pass a basic civics test giving them free history lessons on social media. To quote Shakespeare, “Life…..is a tale, told by an idiot. The sound and the fury signifying nothing.”

I watch CNN for updates although at this point I feel as if they are just the pretty person teasing all of us. John King is at his magic wall, but I think he pulled a finger muscle because last night they had his JV replacement who’s name escapes me because no one cares about the JV at the magic board.

Dana Bash looks mad as hell at her ex, John King, everytime he is at the magic wall and thinks, “Damn that magic wall. He cared more about it than me and it ruined our marriage!”

Anderson Cooper thinks, “I am the son of Gloria Vanderbilt. I could have ridden my bike, lived off my fortune, and Rick Santorum would have been forced to be my butler.”

Van Jones thinks, “Well, I haven’t slept, and I am sitting next to this racist Rick Santorum. The first time he met me he thought I was Anderson Cooper’s butler.”

Gloria Borger thinks, “I picked this week to stop smoking, I hate Rick Santorum, and I wish I had a butler.”

And then there is Rick Santorum, the shart in the pants of my home district who’s greatest hits are talking about man on dog sex and sex with his mother in law. Prior to being a talking head on CNN, Rick was out of work politician and father of 8. The idea of being Anderson’s butler was pretty good until the network offered him a gig. They told him it was to bring balance, but really it was to do what he does best, say crazy hurtful things and wear high top shoes, a secret revealed when the camera gives a wide shot. Rick is as tired as the rest of the panel because now he is making sense. The world is in fact ending.

If Trump wins I get four more years of bad jokes with Donald J. Tramp. If Biden wins I get four years of new bad jokes with Joe Bidentime. I got a puppet. This girl is ready. My mental health and sanity, maybe not.

As a collective, we have had it. Twenty-twenty has been the high school football match up from hell with too many overtimes and time outs. At this point, I am done vote shaming. No one is on a winning streak. No matter which team you are on, I am reaching my hand out like the players did after the battle on the grid iron was complete. To you, I say, “Good game.”

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Alana Petridge

Everyone has encountered one in their lives, someone you need to watch your back around. I was still new to comedy when I met mine. Alana Petridge was the real life version of Reese Witherspoon from Election, except she had pitch black hair. However, it was the same manic smile and the same façade that secretly bubbled with evil underneath.
In the unairconditioned basement of an open mic where most dreams go to die, Alana was convinced hers were being made. Sweat dripped all over our bodies as terrible punchlines were being slung from the stage. This was in fact the first layer of hell.
We were soon transported to the second when Alana Petridge marched onto the stage. Her huge smile showing off rows of pearly whites, she stated she was from Oyster Bay, graduated from Boston University, and was working at MTV with dreams of being on SNL. Translated, she was a nauseating cliché and she hadn’t even started her act. Next she began what was her act, a series of jokes that involved drawings on a poster board. Some jokes were okay, others were lame.
As she did her bits, I noticed the first signs of laughter from the catacombs. Looking over I saw a tribe of people dressed in white, WASP refugees from the Hamptons. Then it clicked, Ms. Desperate had brought her entire family. Yes, it was mom, dad, a reluctant brother and sister, and her grandparents. Mom was filming this disaster. I told myself not to be so hard on her. My parents were far away and maybe I was just jealous.
After the show, I decided to introduce myself as she was another woman, and maybe very lost. I walked over to her and the WASP refugees and said, “Hi, I’m April, good stuff.” It was a half-truth, some of it was decent.
“Alana,” she shook my hand in a way that felt like she was snapping it off, “Listen, do you book shows?”
“No…..”
“It was nice meeting you,” she said, big fake smile flashing. This encounter confirmed my instincts, steer clear.
Over the next month, I crossed paths with Alana at least twice a week. She brought her WASP refugee entourage dressed in white, and they always sat through the shitty open mic sitting silent until their princess took the stage. Alana always did the same routine, never varying, which meant she wasn’t writing. Each time she always re-introduced herself hoping I was booking shows, and each time I would curtly remind Alana we had already met. Finally, she got the message, I had nothing for her therefore I was no use to her.
Alana was vocal about wanting to find management and soon found it in the arms of none other than my ex Isaac Rabinowitz. A trust fund kid, Isaac was fulfilling his lifelong dream of opening a comedy club he christened The Universe. His father, a real estate mogul, spent a small fortune on billboards to attract big name talent. Isaac, a self-proclaimed impresario, was dipping his fingers into talent management, his first client being “the beautiful and talented” Alana Petridge.
As I saw the social media post, I marveled at both Isaac’s hubris and the ability to think with his dick. The fact she thought he was going to make her a star and the fact he thought he could were the funniest thing either of them had ever done. In the time I had dated Isaac, he had run a theatre company into the ground, managed to alienate every woman he ever encountered, and every joke writing instinct he had proved to be completely and utterly wrong. Isaac couldn’t even manage himself, oh what a gas.
The Universe opened, and despite the musing of big names the only headliner was Alana Petridge. Each night, she did 30 minutes, 5 which contained the tired bit with the picture board, and 25 written by Isaac. Comedian friends of mine told me tales of the utter horror and bloodshed that occurred onstage. I will say part of me delighted in this trainwreck, because these were two people I disliked immensely.
In the early fall I got my chance. Isaac, eager to make amends for all the crap he pulled when he was busy messing with my head, and as an olive branch offered me a spot on a show at The Universe. Despite our tricky past, Isaac had always cheered me on when it came to reaching the next level with my comedy. Plus again, I wanted to see the trainwreck for myself, so I confirmed the spot.
The night of the show The Universe was packed. Planets painted on the walls with glowing decals of stars lined the room. Sure, Isaac was Isaac but I had to admit I was impressed. The emcee was a skinny Jewish kid named Bobby Greenbaum who warmed the room up and they were ready to go. He sat in the back with my friend Paul Thompson, a cynical divorcee turned comic, and myself.
“They are great,” I said.
“Oh, crowds here are always.” Paul said.
Overhearing us, Bobby interjected, “That is until…..”
The three of us tried to muffle our laughter, “That bad?”
“I would rather spend time with my ex wife than see her do comedy,” Paul said. Wow, that said a lot. Paul’s ex wife had tried to run him down with her car.
“I call her Tel Aviv because it’s the only place where anyone could bomb that bad,” Bobby said, as he then turned to give the comic onstage the light. As Bobby ran to the edge of the stage, I could see Alana on Isaac’s arm like a Dollar Store Christmas Ornament, glaring at us. I flashed her a fuck you smile in return. After all, I wasn’t the whore no one could stomach.
My name was called, and the set was insane. May Wilson went off script and flashed the audience. They were drunk and off the wall, but it was helluva fun. Bobby gave us the light and we were sad to go. He gave me a pat on the back and whispered, “Get ready for Tel Aviv,” and then made an exploding sound.
Reluctantly, Bobby took the stage, “Ladies and gentlemen, your headliner has been on MTV. Please put your hands together for Alana Petridge.”
Paul whispered, “MTV. I didn’t know it became a TV credit when it was just your foot.”
“Then you could use that Subway Commercial,” it was true, Paul’s foot was in a Subway Commercial. It helped get his SAG card.
Alana started her set. It was 5 tragic minutes of the poster board and drawings. Without her band of WASP refugees dressed in white, the jokes got pity laughs. From there, she went into the material Isaac wrote and then was greeted with awkward silence. I didn’t know what was worse, the fact she was tanking or the fact it wasn’t even with her own material, “If you’re going to blow someone, blow someone funny,” Paul said.
As this big wet abortion went on, several audience members began to leave, always a bad sign. Finally, one super drunk dude who I loved during my set yelled, “Hey Baby, show us your tits like that puppet did! That would be funny!”
“I had no idea the puppet tits were funny,” I said to Paul.
“Puppet tits are always funny,” We both tried to muffle our laughter. Upon hearing this, Alana looked at the audience, tears in her eyes, and then burst out crying and ran offstage. Everyone looked at each other, baffled as to what the hell had just happened. Then suddenly we all burst out laughing because we were apparently sick and unsympathetic fucks.
The drunk yelled, “Now that’s funny!”
Barely out the door Alana countered with, “FUCK YOU!” which made us all laugh even harder.
As Darlene the waitress was dropping checks she passed us and said, “Good, that girl’s such a pain in the ass.” Damn, when the waitstaff doesn’t like you that says everything. Stick a fork in her, she’s done.
Walking out at the end of the night, I heard Alana screaming to Isaac, “You promised to write me jokes! Your jokes suck! Just like sex with you!” Damn, Isaac was who he was but this was way harsh.As she continued her assault on Isaac, I passed.
Alana, full of venom screamed, "And fuck you April Brucker! You and your unfunny puppet drained the crowd and ruined my night! If it wasn't for you, I would have had a good set!"
Looking at her, May Wilson in suitcase, I said, "Tomorrow, I hope to be funny, but you Sweetheart, will still be shrill and obnoxious." Then I gave her the bitchy smile matched with the bitchy wave and departed into the night.
As I walked away Alana yelled, “I HATE YOU APRIL BRUCKER! I HOPE YOU DIE!”
The next morning I woke up with a message from Isaac apologizing for Alana and telling me he had severed all ties with her. I told him not to worry, things happen, and I looked forward to performing at The Universe again. Days later, the buzz on social media was that Alana’s big time lawyer father was suing Isaac for both sexual harassment and breach of contract. The suit was ultimately thrown out of court, because Isaac’s brother was a big time lawyer, too. While The Universe Comedy Club would stay open a while longer, Isaac retired from personal management forever which was for the best.
After that, Alana went off her birth control, entrapped a successful writer, and tricked him into marrying her. Everything went bust after that, and the divorce was a shitshow. From there it was radio silence until I decided to look her up on facebook.
Alana is living with her parents back on Long Island. The aging stick didn’t just hit her hard, it beat her to a bloody pulp. She, her family, and her son are all dressed in white, smiling as a group of WASP refugees happy in their hive. In another post she announced after a long break and a lot of therapy she wants to return to comedy. Part of me wanted to encourage this, because I wanted a sequel to the shit show she had given me for free so many years before. Than I thought nah, the world has enough depravity and sadness as it is. 

Monday, March 23, 2020

Dan Smith


A minute before COVID-19 made it cool, my Daily Mail article went viral. The headline went from The UK, to Iceland, Italy, Slovenia, Slovakia, Lithuania, Russia, Estonia, Latvia, China, Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Kenya, Colombia, Puerto Rico, Brazil, and finally Guatemala. Yes, I am a celebrity in Guatemala. The headline read as follows, “Ventriloquist Who Splashes Out $20,000 on Her Puppets So That They Have Their Own Bedroom Dumps Her Fiance After He Says It’s Them Or Me.”
When it happened, I discovered the headline hit I was on a vacation with my family. It was a surprise, and while a pleasant one I was simply a lone ventriloquist who supported herself and her puppets by delivering singing telegrams. My apartment was so filled with puppets, puppet clothes, and costumes I could barely walk. Weeks before I had spoken to The Daily Mail, but I had no clue this was going to happen. In my bed, lights out, I yelled to my mom,  “MOM! Get in here now!”
 “Everything okay?”
 “Just look,” I said pointing to a page where they were talking about me in Hindi.
My mom didn’t raise an eyebrow nor was she as mystified as I was, “And?”
“And I’m everywhere Mom!”
“Yeah, and you worked hard and people are catching on. This is what we wanted, remember? Send me the links so I can print them out and put them in your memory box. And start to look for quality management that can get us to the next level too.”
My mom is often the smartest person I know. For years she had quasi-managed me. While she believed in my talent, she was the first to admit she didn’t know the industry and we were both near sighted one eyed people in the Valley of the Blind, constantly reinventing the wheel.
For years, I had no luck with agents and managers for a myriad of reasons. Some were well intended, promising the moon and being unable to deliver. Others had no idea how to represent me, submitting me for things I was wrong for. Then there were many who said they couldn’t make money off of me for whatever reason. After enough drama I endeavored to represent myself. Unlike many of my friends who had the name of an agent or manager on their resume, I was constantly on television and being booked for events. While I did a good job of hustling, I knew as enquiries were coming in from outside the United States I would need someone to help me. I distrusted these beings but knew they would be a necessary evil.
As I began to post my press clippings online a fellow by the name of Dan Smith (name changed to protect the guilty) reached out. He claimed to be a “Big Fan,” and he said he managed ventriloquists. Dan was effusive with his praise, which stoked my ego, already glowing from this press coverage. I looked on his page to see where he was. Dan was based in Missouri. He was a self-proclaimed “Christian” and “Man of God.” The warning lights went up as I saw scripture quotes, but a lot of puppeteers are Christians and many are quite nice actually. I figured it didn’t hurt to listen, so I told him what I wanted, to tour outside of the US as that was where I was getting most of my publicity. Dan said we could talk about that, and we set up a time to talk. I was excited, but because I was burned so much before I also wanted to see what he could do for me.
Dan called the next day, and I was excited to talk to him. After exchanging pleasantries he said, “I have been a fan for a long time and it’s an honor and privilege to be talking to April Brucker let alone be working with her.”
“Thanks,” this wasn’t just flattering, but sounded like everything I wanted. However, there is an old line in scripture that the devil hides in flattery as the devil was a snake in the Garden of Eden. Still, what if he was the one who was going to push me ahead?
“I worked with a well known ventriloquist. She was a beauty queen. I made her. She still owes me big, but she wasn’t focused and burned me for a lot of money.” As Dan spoke, he was reminiscent of an abusive ex of mine, everyone always screwing him over and playing the victim. That’s when a red light went off, but I told myself to stop being so paranoid before I got more information.
“Who else have you represented? Have they been on TV shows? Are they touring?” Maybe I could get some names of some clients to cross check him. Any agent or manager worth their weight could answer that, and it was a fair question.
Instead, I was greeted by the very curt, “I have worked in all facets of the industry and know what I am doing and let me tell you I don’t choose to work with just anyone.”
The non-answer was answer enough, but I pressed a little harder, “Who are your clients exactly?”
Dan said, “Just so you know I am a good Christian and a soldier of God. If this doesn’t work out we can be friends. Remember that.”
Shocked by his evasive replies I decided to change the topic to our DM, “My press coverage is outside the United States and I want to tour. I need management that can make that happen. Are you my guy? In our DM you said that could be discussed.”
I already had a feeling the answer was no, so I waited for Dan to respond, “Let me be honest, anyone telling you that you are good enough to tour just wants to sleep with you. And let me tell you what people say behind your back. They say I am wasting my time by making this phone call. That you are a terrible ventriloquist, an even worse puppeteer, and a horrendous comedian. Right now, you are on the road to no where, but I am the man who can change that.”
“You are a man who can’t even name his clients,” I said, shocked by this change of tone. All I had done was press him for his credentials and he had turned on me. My instincts were right. This man was an abuser, he was luring me in and it was already starting.
“Well if you decide to become one of my clients, which would be smart because I am a genius, I can’t have the head of the cruise ship calling and saying your lips move. My reputation is already on the line making this call.”
This needed to end and now. I was a fool for letting it go on this long and I would be a bigger fool for letting this continue. The only way Dan was getting near my career was if I had a taser and a restraining order,  “Cruise ships aren’t the place for me. I get sea sick. I don’t think you are the person to help me.”
I thought I was being nice by ending what was clearly becoming toxic, but just as Dan was incensed I questioned his credentials he became more incensed when I rejected him outright, “You know, you think you are famous, but you are like Sonny Bono. Everyone made fun of him. He was the butt of all the jokes. You know what happened, he became a Congressman. FACE IT, YOU NEED ME! YOU NEED ME! STOP FIGHTING GOD AND DESTINY!”
If now was not a time to abort mission I didn’t know what was, “Listen dumb ass, Sonny Bono wrote those routines. He wrote the songs. Congressman is a great job. I need you like I need a positive PAP Smear. Fuck off Felicia.” CLICK. While it was disappointing to still be my sole advocate, I was also relieved I didn’t let Dan near me because he would have only ruined me.
Dan wasn’t done. He sent me a DM that read, “You are a lousy ventriloquist, terrible comedian, and a wench. No wonder your ex hit you, you deserve it.” Note, this was in reference to a post I did advocating against domestic violence where I shared a candid post about abuse I suffered at the hands of a former partner. The message didn’t upset me, if anything it was an indicator my instincts had been correct and I had done the right thing. Of course Dan blocked me so I couldn’t reply back, because that’s what Jesus would do.
Three months after The Dan Smith Disaster, my waiting paid off. I ended up scoring a manager who is not only knowledgeable about the variety arts, but has gotten me to work at a much higher level than I ever dreamed possible. While I didn’t end up touring Europe, under his guidance I put together a Vegas show, which is a building block towards a European tour. April Unwrapped is on hiatus because of COVID-19, but I remain hopeful about the future. In case you are wondering, my current manager is not a Christian but a spiritual agnostic. Not only is he a better mentor than Dan Smith, but he’s a better person as well.
My issue with Dan was never the feedback, I feel we can all benefit from constructive criticism. It was his abusive streak when questioned. Apparently I wasn’t the only one who felt this way. About a year after the fated encounter, I heard through the grapevine that he was to be avoided in the vent community and was being sued by a former client who was also pursuing a restraining order. Dan apparently blamed the lawsuit on Satan, Barack Obama, and COVID-19. Dan missed his chance to represent me as I was never a terrible comedian and ventriloquist. I’m mediocre. Get it right.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Miss Google

This was about the 4th or 5th time I was ever onstage, and it was in one of those dank basements that smelled of mildew, and the nights I spent there and in other establishments like it probably made me immune to coronavirus. There was a young woman crouched in the dark corner of the back of the room where the comics hung out. The show had not started yet, and I had met everyone else but her.
She had brown hair that was so greasy it could have been dipped in a vat of olive oil, and was twisted in an uneven something or other that made it look like she went to the Helen Keller salon. Her face had minimal makeup, and while the lip gloss was okay coverup would have helped hide the patch of stress acne. While of average build, she wore a potato sack that masqueraded as a dress, an outfit that would have flattered no body shape. The expression on her face was one of a person tricked into swallowing an entire patch of Sour Patch kids. Despite the fact she looked crazy and my gut told me to run like I saw Godzilla, I went over and said hello. I said, “Hi, I’m April.”
At first what seemed like a minute passed, I didn’t know if she heard me or was ignoring me. When she finally did look up she rolled her eyes as if she merely tolerating my presence, “Where did you go to college?”
At first this didn’t strike me as an odd question, as maybe she was in Cinema Studies or some other department I didn’t interact with as much. Or maybe she had been a graduate teaching assistant in one of the lecture classes I attended, and this was her big trip out of the library, “NYU. Do I know you?”
“No. I went to Barnard. But I suppose NYU is almost good enough.”
This person with substandard hygiene who looked like she stole her outfit from an Idaho potato field was letting me know I was almost good enough. So I just said,  “And your name is?”
“Cara Seymour. I am an expert on complicated things someone like you would have to Google.”
“Nice to meet you,” I said before just walking away. Shaking my head I felt angry. Sure, I was educated but I would never dream of talking to someone the way she did to me. I also wanted to tell Cara Seymour that while Barnard was a wonderful school and while it was across the street from Columbia, they were not Columbia, her shit still stank. The rest of the lineup seemed tethered to the Earth in a meaningful way, so at least that was a relief.
The show began, and the kid emceeing was a dorky would be Seinfeld who’s claim to fame was being passed for late night at The Comic Strip. The next was a angry white kid who ranted about his ex girlfriend who nearly made me pee my pants. After him was a really funny black woman. Then after her was a middle aged white divorcee dude talking about dating again, and he too was funny. Then came Cara. The host introduced her as having been on MTV and Comedy Central, so while she was a complete canker sore my hopes were high. She began, “Hi, I just want everyone here to know I graduated from Barnard and I am smarter than every other comic you have seen tonight and am probably smarter than you. If you don’t know my references, Google it.”
The crowd gave her that light laugh, a mix between nervous and pity. I hoped what we were seeing was Andy Kaufman inspired performance, and this was all just an eccentric overcommitted to her craft. Cara then began to talk about War and Peace. The pity laughs quickly vanished and turned into uncomfortable silence. This had turned into a pathetic PhD thesis defense, and the free comedy show these people were lured into had morphed into a priceless shit show. Five people, unable to stomach the comparison to the Cherry Orchard, left.
The comics in the back were biting their tongues as not to laugh at this car wreck for all the wrong reasons. The emcee said, “Wow, what the fuck is that?”
The angry white dude said, “I don’t know, but shoot her and put her out of her misery.”
The black woman said, “I was a literature professor. I taught War and Peace and the Cherry Orchard. She’s not even close. Let her live. It’s a bigger punishment to have someone wander this world an idiot.”
The divorced dude said, “She reminds me of my ex wife that tried to stab me.”
Finally, the emcee decided to take action and after five grueling minutes ended the bloody torture that was happening in front of us. From there it was the Herculean task of trying to revive a room that had the energy sucked out of it. Then my name was called. The rest of the comedians gave me a look of sympathy for having to follow that.
Going up with May Wilson, my longtime ventriloquist companion on my arm I began, “We’re a ventriloquist act.”
May said, “If you don’t know what that is, Google it.” The crowd let out a huge laugh, and the comics in the back nearly fell over. In retrospect, it probably wasn’t that funny but there was so much bizarre tension in the room everyone needed relief. While the whole room laughed for what felt like an entire minute, the one who found no humor in this was Cara, who scowled and stormed out of the room, loudly slamming the door. From there, the rest of my set was a rung above horrible as I was still very green, but May Wilson will tell you how amazing she was.
As everyone left for the night Cara stood outside pouting, saving the biggest snarl of the evening for me as I passed. It wasn’t just a snarl, it was something akin to Cerberus but alas, even Cerberus was more likeable than she was.
As I was thinking of this story, I decided to look Cara up on facebook. Apparently she is no longer doing comedy, which is an act of God. Instead, she is now a counselor for troubled youth and is actually quite successful. I can only imagine her approach. Her teen clients walk in and see her with her unwashed hair and potato sack dress and she starts to talk about War and Peace and they run out screaming, “Yes! Not only am I cured of my Daddy issues, but you have showed me life can truly be worse!”

Sunday, March 15, 2020

My Corona

Coronavirus. She is on your TV new station. It’s all everyone is talking about. The coronavirus is closing this, that is cancelled, life is cancelled, even the coronavirus conference is cancelled. Coronavirus is getting some serious press. Climate Change called, “Bitch, who’s your publicist?”
Not a fan of Miss Corona at the moment. April Unwrapped, my one woman show, previewed in Las Vegas last month. I had worked my entire life for this and we were getting ready to open my regular run for my residency and BAM! Coronavirus hit and everything has been postponed indefinitely. This is a surreal kick in the heart to say the least, as my line of work is filled with hustle and rejection even when doomsday is not looming upon us.
More than anything, this has been irking me as a long time HIV/AIDS activist. As someone who has many friends in the long term survivor community, I appreciate the stress and fear surrounding Miss Corona. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention more people were dead within the first month of AIDS, and it took the CDC THREE YEARS to assemble a task force. It was only after activists who came before me took radical action. Or as Mark S. King of My Fabulous Disease explained, that it was convenient to ignore HIV/AIDS because “the right people” were dying, meaning LGBTQ, addicts, and POC. Unfortunately, only something becomes a crisis when it hits the straight, white, cis community.
While the privilege of the dominant culture and double standard around who matters have reduced me to screaming matches with people, I also do not believe anyone regardless of who they are should perish by coronavirus. I have been raging against the like of Katie Jo Williams aka Corona Katie who believe coronavirus is manufactured myth not to get Trump re-elected, or as she said on Twitter, “I am going to get a burger at Red Robin because I am an American and that is what I do.” So as an American you do not care about the immunosuppressed like long term HIV survivors who consider flu season hell, people with COPD, cancer patients going through chemo, children with asthma and others at risk? Look, I know it sucks but we have to do what is necessary until this is under control.
What is most disheartening is not only the selfish panic buying but racism I am seeing against Asian in the form of tweets, memes, and rhetoric. There is a story circulating that a guy ate a bat and BAM, we have coronavirus. (Okay, maybe coronavirus’s publicist needs a new spin on this). This is reminiscent of the racist myth during AIDS that some African in the forest had sex with a money and BAM, we have AIDS. (I hope AIDS fired her publicist after that one). Crappy jokes aside to lighten the mood, as an activist I find this ignorance disgusting, but a waste of valuable time and energy that could be used not only to educate others about transmission about coronavirus, but how to prevent that transmission not only to themselves but to others around them, especially the most vulnerable. Add in the disregard for science by our president and vice president and wow, I am like a drag queen who just lost the pageant on a technicality.
As I was marinating in my resentment that the world sucked and we were all gonna die last week, I was involved in a minor car accident when my car was struck by a vogue taxi cab. After seeing my life flash before my eyes, dealing with the drama that comes with an accident and Metro PD, I was star trekking in the Twilight Zone. When I got home and saw the coronavirus coverage on TV I couldn’t take it, I couldn’t do it. Yeah Miss Corona might get me, but that rogue taxi cab did a much better job of nearly getting me. Bye Felicia.
Since that time I have been focusing on myself, but most importantly self-care. Like Shakespeare did when the theatres closed during the plague, I have been writing more prose, and perhaps I will take a stab at a sonnet. I have been practicing more with my puppets, perfecting our routines so we are not just ready for the opening whenever it comes, but sharper than ever when things get back to normal. I am going outside, enjoying the sunshine, and enjoying the dogs. In a few weeks, it will be warm enough here to plant tomatoes.

A quote from another long time AIDS activist friend comes to mind, “Pace yourself.” My rage is okay and well placed, but right now, I just got to do me. I see a bath bomb in my near future. When things get back to normal, I want to call Miss Corona, “Bitch, I’m opening in Vegas. Who’s your publicist?”

Friday, March 13, 2020

Ghosted


Isaac Rabinowitz had just broken my heart again. Enter Preston Hutchinson, the angry, white, chain smoking import from Dallas, Texas. Before moving to New York, Preston had toured Texas and even opened for Ralphie May. This meant he was a big deal in Texas, but like every other transplant hoping to make it in a big market he was relegated to the role of open micer.
Preston’s comedy was raw, edgy, and funny, easily eclipsing the competition, even the so called “pro” comedians with TV credits. To add to his appeal he was very good looking in that bad decision kind of way. The thought of talking to him produced sweat under my arm pits and butterflies in my stomach, so I just avoided it.
After about a month of playing the role of bashful schoolgirl, I found myself flyering for stage time with him at a watering hole that’s now closed. Preston was getting grief from Will, the producer, about his drinking. When we joined me on my corner I finally got the guts to introduce myself, hoping I wouldn’t puke on his shoes. Although it might not seem the case now, in those days I was extraordinarily shy. As I struggled to even say my name Preston stopped me, “You’re that girl with the Bride of Chuckie Doll!”
May Wilson thought this was just as funny as I did in case you are wondering. I laughed and said a ton of stupid things as Preston did make me weak in the knees. Then the show began, and I worried I blew it because I talk too much when nervous.
When May Wilson and I went up, we were marginal at best as most barker comics are. May will say she killed, I know we were substandard. Note, she will blame it on me.
Preston went up two comics after me, and killed it right away. Part way through his set he said, “Okay, Bride of Chuckie, I see you. Come and get me with your devil doll!” He then pointed back at me, leapt offstage, and then began to chase me around the room. I had no idea why this was happening, but I was having fun and the audience was dying with laughter.
After the show, Preston and I shared a cigarette as the late March night surrounded us, trying to warm up while still seeing our breath. Preston let me share his glove as I took a puff from his menthol pack. We talked about comedy, punchlines, and what a dick Will the producer was. When 1 AM hit, he walked me to the train and kissed me goodnight.
When the train brought me home, I dreamed nasty dreams where Preston and I had lots of wild monkey sex. Waking up, I had a serious case of the giggles. Just as I was about to walk on air, I saw Isaac Rabinowitz had texted me. Curses, could he sense I was happy? The text read, “Sorry about last week. I made a mistake and miss you. Can I have another chance?” DELETE. Sorry cowboy, there’s a new romantic obsession in town.
The next day, Preston and I crossed paths again in the same dingy watering hole for another show. He motioned for me to join him in the back of the room. Splitting a glass of Jack Daniels straight, we shot the breeze. Preston lamented that he was tired from working so much. When I asked where he worked he said he was a waiter at LaGuardia. I said, “Oh,” as I had never met anyone who worked as a waiter at the airport. I didn’t think anything about the response as the liquor was starting to hit my system.
Preston apparently viewed my response as an affront because he said,  “What, am I not good enough for you?” Shocked by his reaction, I quickly apologized puzzled as to what the hell had just happened.
All was quickly forgotten as we ordered another glass of whiskey and Preston chased it with a beer. After my substandard set, Preston was very encouraging, telling me I had the goods to go all the way. This was flattering as he is still one of the funniest people I have ever shared a stage with. It was nice to meet a guy who wasn’t threatened by my drive. After our second drink and shared cigarette, we went back to my place to hook up.
On the train ride back to my place Preston said, “I want to dress you up in a clown suit and kiss you all night long.”
I laughed, but Preston again didn’t find this funny. He said,  “I share my feelings and this is how you treat me!” He was near tears. Quickly I apologized again, puzzled as to what I had done. I shook it off, no one was perfect, right?
What happened between the sheets was hot. Then again, mentally unstable people are always top notch in that department. Laying around afterwards, Preston and I talked about people we had dated. While I didn’t want to talk about what wasn’t even a comparison, I mentioned Isaac. Preston told me his ex, who was ten years older than he was, pushed him to quit comedy and get married. When I called her a crazy bitch, Preston said, “Not really. We were living together and she was paying my bills.” I went to laugh hoping this was a joke, but Preston gave me the look, he was telling the truth.
The only thing to do after sweating it up in bed is to get some food. While we ate greasy diner food, Preston dropped the ultimate truth bomb, “Do you ever get a rush off of stealing something small, like a pack of gum?” That is when he told me he had not one but two shoplifting arrests, and gave me a small trinket he had stolen from a store in the airport. In law enforcement they call these clues, and Preston had been dropping them. Something told me to run out of there as I had just been given stolen property as a gift, but I was still stuck by being hit with his loser love wand that I stayed put. (Yes, they wanted to charge me as an adult). My spider senses told me not to accept the trinket and when I refused it, he told me he didn’t take it personally and wanted to buy me something nice when he had the money.
After he left, Preston kissed me goodbye and promised to call me but never did. At first I assumed he was busy and didn’t want to be “that girl.” A week later I saw him flyering, and when I tried to talk to him he was short, cold, and avoided me. When I saw him he was in the back of the room sharing a glass of whiskey with a rachet would be female comedian who had no punchlines but swore for shock.
The subway ride home was spent crying. One week before Preston had made me feel hot, now he made me feel cheap, dirty and used. What did I do? Was it not accepting the stolen trinket? It was stolen property for Godssakes! Was the rachet girl the one he wanted all along? Was I not pretty enough? Was he still in love with the woman who paid his rent? Granted, I knew I had dodged a firing squad but the heart wants what the heart wants.
Days later I made the decision to stop flyering with said show. Will, the producer, called me to give me inane notes and acted like it was some sacred duty to flyer for his shitty bar show. Plus I was visiting my family for two weeks and wouldn’t be around anyway. Then there was a move and a new job where I would no longer be available. While Preston wasn’t a factor in the decision, not seeing him would be a relief.
When I got back from the visit to my parents and was making my way through the airport, I saw Preston working at his waitering job. I waved, he ignored me. It hurt, but it was also a lesson that if I kept expecting him to act like a human he was only going to keep hurting me. I didn’t want to know why he did what he did and I no longer cared because figuring out someone who makes no sense was a waste of  time. That’s when I filed him under, “Jack Daniels: This Was All Your Fault.”
Of course Isaac texted me again wanting another chance, and I jumped right from the fire back into frying pan because I had to get burned one last time. After one last humiliation from Isaac, I found myself doing another shitty show in the same venue. Outside I heard Preston’s voice and felt as if the universe was mindfucking me again. It was getting late and I needed to get home.
Sneaking out, I tried to skulk past Preston when he said, “Bride of Chuckie, how have you been?” Before I could keep it short and exit he gave me a huge bear hug as if he hadn’t been a complete asshole and dogged me the way he did.
I was polite, telling him I was fine. That’s when he said, “You know, I had a great time with you. I want to hang out again, do you still have my number?”
“Yeah, we should totally hang out,” I said crossing my fingers behind my back, fighting off every nerve to tell him he was a useless fuckwad and loser. Part of me wanted to tell him to get tested for amnesia, but I marveled at the this straight, white, cis male who thought I should just fall to the ground and worship him. After giving him another hug, one which I wanted to strangle him really, I walked into the night. Before I got on the train I got my phone out and deleted his number. Maybe you ghosted me, but I am about to disappear yo ass! BAM!
Days later, I met Sean, the shitshow who would become my former fiancé, giving me 5 good standup minutes and a viral headline. While I lost track of Preston, I found out he was banned from the watering hole for his drinking problem and got fired from his job at LaGuardia for stealing. He moved with friends to LA to try to do comedy, but the drinking problem morphed into a drug problem, getting him kicked out of his apartment and living on Skid Row.
Ultimately, it was the same old girlfriend who put the burn on him to get married that ended up being his savior, driving to LA not only to rescue him but put him in rehab. She took him back to Texas where he got clean, they got married, and now have a 6 year old. Preston no longer does comedy, works at a car lot his wife’s brother owns, and his chain smoking angry white boy bod has been replaced by an out of shape dad bod. All that could have been mine.
I don’t hate Preston, but rather I pity him. To this day I will admit he is probably still a better comedian than I will ever be, but through bad decisions, addiction and self-defeat he squandered his gift and the opportunities he could have had. I truly hope he has found peace and happiness in his new life and is holding his demons at bay. While it hurt at the time, Preston did me a favor. If he stuck around, he would have only ruined my life. Getting ghosted sucks, but trust me, it’s always for the best.