Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Old Days (Chicago)

Not too long ago I was walking down the street and saw a friend from my past. Let's just call him Zeke. To give you an idea, Zeke met me at a time in my life that wasn't so hot. I have written about this time before. Yeah, the ex who was psycho, getting the different mailing address, being scared for my safety. Before that having been forced to give up my beloved puppet children because he didn't approve. Zeke met me as I was coming out of that rough time and trying to find my own.

We had spent a lot of time that summer at the diner. In those days Zeke was smoking. He still wears the painted on jeans and has the metrosexual wardrobe. We would sit outside as a host of characters went in and out. There was Chester, who had eight children and was always finding out about more of his new creations. There was Willie, a former sax player turned former heroin addict who had declared 95 dependents on his tax return. Oh of course there was Ricky, who worked as a stage hand and every damn thing tied back to his stage handing job. Lenox of course was a black queen who would talk about how he used to smoke crack, and how he got busted once for having a blow torch on a plane. Julianna was a high drama artist who thought she was Madonna, and in between getting kicked out of living locations she liked to draw. Deidre was once a groupie for the Grateful Dead, became a mom, cheated on her husband, and then a divorcee. Yasmine was a lesbian activist similar to Maureen in Rent.

Those were the days, kind of. It was wild. It was crazy. It was visceral. I really talked a lot about how all I had wanted to do was comedy. Those were my dreams then. On my way home of course I passed Joe Franklin's Comedy Club, or what it used to be. So many nights I did shows in that back room tourist trap. So many nights I did spots for audiences that couldn't speak English. Afterwards, so many times I got drunk and stumbled my way home through the night. Sometimes the punchlines hit, sometimes they missed. My mom and sister came to see me there, and my sister and some friends came once, too. I was young and ambitious. I had all these goals. The goals had sent me to New York, and the fear was that they wouldn't come true.

I still remembered the comedian characters from those days. There was Barry Lawrence, an older brother type who was destined to be a star but became an even uglier drunk and destroyed a promising comedy career. Last update, had two baby mamas that hated him. Not to forget Shira Katsburg, who had show business ties that she claimed and wore a fur coat no matter what the weather. Donny Lamell hosted a radio show, and showed natural talent onstage but also had a knack for pissing off people that mattered. Mikey Goldman was funny looking and that could get a laugh, but never wrote new jokes so you could say so much for that. Sheila Simmons was sleeping her way through every headliner until one got a restraining order against her when she showed up to his home in a drunken rage. So many people came and went. It was like a revolving door.

The thing that kept me going aside from my dreams was seeing the lights of Times Square only several feet away. I knew someday it was going to happen for me. No one was going to simply hand it my way. In show business, there is entitlement running like the Mississippi through the center of Middle America. The sight of the lights kept me working. Over the years faces from my life came and went and all I could do was keep moving.

Last night I was watching RPaul's Drag Race. Bianca Del Rio won. I remembered Chacho who first introduced me to drag culture. He knew every drag queen there was, and the gossip surrounding them. I found myself missing him and how he would dished on every queen walking. The pain of losing a friend of addiction never goes away. Yeah, it hurts less but there is something about it that always stings. I still remember how one of his runs landed him in the hospital and he told me he was telling people there that he had "a famous friend on TV." Then I realized Chacho meant me.

I also found myself more than ever wondering what happened to the cohorts from the diner. My old comedian chums who had disappeared. I longed for a yesteryear where I could go back and laugh with them about the bullshit. Before I was so wrapped up in myself, and had a cinderblock on my shoulder about who I constantly think I am. I also longed to let them know about all the things I had been up to.

In my journey before the drag race I found myself arranging a venue for an NYC signing of my book. During my meeting with the booker, we spoke about another character we knew, Rick Ocean, a promising comedian who struggled with bipolar. Rick fell off the radar and was homeless the last time anyone heard. He was also seen clad in a tiara and prom dress, don't ask. Anyway, the lights flickered on and off. The booker, a flamboyant man named Brooks Goldberg, explained the ghosts were friendly.

At that moment, it occurred to me my friends from the past might not be physically with me because life tore us apart, they moved on, or they died. However, they didn't leave me. I am sure the characters from the diner follow me wherever they are. Zeke had been eager as ever to get an update on my comedy. Some of my chums from Joe Franklin's back in the day keep in touch, and I know they would keep up with me. And of course, Chacho is keeping track in between the havoc he is wreaking wherever he is.

My visit with Zeke was also significant because it is a marker of how far I have come. After all the work, crying, and continual showing up, my dreams are starting to come true. Some have yet to happen, but it's not a question of if but when. One thing is for sure though, I got out of a relationship with an abusive partner and would never let anyone hit me today. I would never compromise things that were important to me, puppet children included. Sometimes you have to walk through hell to get to the other side, and the gift of a rock bottom is it forces you to take action. However, the only way out of that hell is to take action and to keep going.

I am doing a book signing at a MAC award winning venue it looks like, releasing a DVD, work as a talking head for a sports app, and am getting ready to do a theatre in two weekends. What does April of the past think of that? Eh, she still can't believe it. First she has to take care of her mascara.


Come see me at the Soluna Theatre, May 30-31 Happague, Long Island
Buy my book I Came, I Saw, I Sang: Memoirs of a Singing Telegram Delivery Girl
Check out my DVD Broke and Semi-Famous coming soon

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