Friday, January 23, 2015

Rainbow in the Dark

Recently I have been blessed with some amazing news. In December I submitted my content to be on television in Europe. This past Tuesday I found out that I am streaming live on Finnish TV. It is a network called Love TV. They are applying for an American broadcast license. Still, I am streaming on

This pleasant surprise was unveiled after a very hard day when I got a bad piece of news about a young man who grew up in my neighborhood that died accidentally and suddenly. What is cool about Love TV is that they are affiliated with Dr. Dre’s son. This is so awesome. My friend Dave Harris who is the most awesome friend a girl could ask for got my content broadcast ready. His wife Heather has been patient with my demands which sometimes earn me the title of Lady Hitchcock.

The week before I had enjoyed some press in England. Out of no where, a British reporter called to inquire about my children and I. Our family has received a bit of press over the years, but no one rang as of late. What piqued his interest I did not know. I assumed part of it was because I had broken a world record two weeks previous with the help of 250 other performers. One pianist from Australia had even messaged me, so graciously including me in his blog. Apparently, the Aussie’s have quite a cabaret scene. I was also amazed by his talent, and hope someday I meet him in real time. That is where the internet is truly a gift. It connects people who would not ordinarily meet, and through it I have met some extraordinary artists that while linguistics sometimes separate us, creativity connects us to the core.

I ended up chatting with this man who was a nice bloke as they say. Apparently, they spoke about my puppet family on the radio, and even ran a newspaper article on us. The fan mail from the chaps as they also say poured in. One even offered me a relationship. We discussed where we would live and everything. While our love affair moved a little too fast for me, the gesture was indeed flattering.
I ended up Googling myself and found I was featured on TheRichest, a website where they list Top 10 things and cover the lives of rich folk like the Kardashians and reality television. I made number one on this list. I wondered how not only they remembered me, but how I became their numero uno.

Then I ended up speaking to a fan boy of mine. A former member of the military, he was amongst the troops that captured Iraqi despot Saddam Hussein. Now he works as a celebrity body guard. For a while he worked for Selena Gomez and some of the other teeny bopper stars in the states. Now he is working in England. This particular fan boy ended up showing my clips to two singers he is guarding. Their names escape my mind. It’s not completely because I am thoughtless, but when it comes to pop music I am a little bit of an old woman who lives in a shoe. I have a bunch of children and I don’t know what to do….bad joke.

Well they are pop stars in the UK, one guy and one girl. They dug me and played me on one British network and MTV Europe. This was another awesome announcement. Part of me thought he was lying, not that he would but this is just incredible. Then it would also explain some of the sudden press interest in me again from Europe. Actually, it would explain most of it.

Years ago, my plan was to be a global superstar. There were times that the dream seemed so far fetched. There were times when I wanted to let the dream go. Yet whenever I tried, I would always end up crying myself to sleep because it felt like my heart was being ripped out.

Back in late October, I almost threw in the towel. A pilot I filmed wasn’t airing, and my bank account had a negative balance. Not to mention I had that Come to Jesus conversation with my mom about what way my life was going. Maybe I had made a mistake by chasing this rainbow. Or maybe I had gone as far as I was supposed to. Now perhaps it was time for me to grow up, get married, have kids, and be a real person. It was a hard pill to swallow, but maybe that was who I was supposed to be for the next phase of my life.

I headed to do a singing telegram on Long Island, and barely had enough money to eat breakfast. My umbrella was broken, and the rain just kept coming down. To top it off, it was cold on top of being damp, and the raindrops felt like razor blades. For weeks I kept telling myself it was going to get better, and it had only gotten worse. I had no idea how I was going to get to my telegram without getting completely drenched because now my ghetto umbrella would not even open.

I asked God to give me a sign because I had no idea what I was supposed to do. Just then this feeling of calm came over me. I was going to be alright. This was my destiny, and while things looked bleak I had not come this far in order to be tossed asunder. There was no way I could quit now. Minutes later, as if the Heavens were sending me a message, the storm stopped.

The telegram was a success, and the client gave me an $80 tip. It helped put my bank account back on track, and it helped put some money in my pocket. When I got home, I had a fan letter from a young man in Texas who apparently was a huge fan of mine, and told me my day was coming sooner than I knew. Sure, everything was still not all better, but there was hope.

A week later, I released my country video. The fan mail I got was insane. They seemed to be crawling out of the woodwork. While I was still financially crippled, it was God or whomever was upstairs sending these angels to prod me along. The next week I found out a project I thought was dead was alive, and by a quirky miracle I became SAG-AFTRA eligible. Then I was asked to be head writer on a project, and the gifts have been coming ever since.

Right now, I am stoked about all the attention I am receiving in Europe. There is part of me that is very excited to be closer to reaching my goal of global superstardom. Granted, I know I am not there yet but have come one huge step closer. The feeling is amazing. So much so I want to do a happy dance.

Then I also feel fear because last years I waded through so much darkness, yet I am experiencing luck and light. I don’t want the light to fade, but know in my heart rainy days always do come and life always happens. But I have to silence that fear. The fear stops me from my goal. The fear is my naysayers and detractors, and by feeding their egos I feed the devil.

I know in my heart this is no accident. I have been working for the better part of a decade, and my efforts are now speaking for themselves. Because of what I have done, and the crops I have planted, the harvest is starting to come in. However, I don’t know what is next. Although I don’t know, I am sure it will be good.

For the most part I feel grateful and humbled for my fans. Yes, the people who supported me when no one else did. Yes, the people who watched me faithfully on public access or came to my shows. Yes, the people who buy my DVDs, my books, and watch me on the tele as they say in Europe. Yes, the people who cheer me on when life doesn’t. Yes, the people who are with me as I wait for the rest of the world to catch up. Yes, the people who write me and who I will personally answer until the end of time like Joan Crawford.

It’s not because I am crazy, it is because you mean that much to me. When something happens that I can’t explain, I know it’s you and all you. At times I want to give up the fight you keep me going.

You are my salvation, my reason for doing what I do. You indeed are my rainbow in the dark……

Thursday, January 22, 2015

April Brucker Interviews Officer E.

Comment whether you love me or hate me. This is the land of the first amendment. We are all entitled to our opinions

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Keeley's Last Stand

Back in the day, when Nishu lived on East 50th Street, we had a crew of friends akin to the Outlaws of Sherwood Forest and the Lost Boys/Lost Girls of Never Land. We were a crew that somehow managed to test the laws of nature. While endearing and harmless in our way, there was no question some of us were more high drama than others. One such friend was Keeley. Yes, Keeley, she is so much so that these days we simply refer to her as “The K Word.”

In the early 1900s, Raku Nene magic was outlawed on an island in the South Pacific after a number of natives conjured this ultimately destructive spirit. While Raku Nene was fun in some ways, in others he was hell on wheels. The adventures with this fiend would begin as fun but always end in something burning down. To say his name was to summon him. These days Keeley has the same effect. So yes, as I said we now mention her by the term above and not her given name thus risking summoning her.

To give you a little background on Keeley, she is originally from the panhandle part of Florida. She is part Seminole actually, and her grandfather was a chief of some sort. Keeley came to NYC to attend NYU film school. During her tenure there, she discovered a love and a passion for makeup. So after graduation she worked as a makeup artist, and production supervisor. Keeley had quite a career until 2 things happened: First, the market popped, and second, employers discovered she was cat shit crazy.

Keeley had an interesting housing record. You see, she was either evicted or kicked out of every residence she lived in. When Keeley was kicked out, she was not just asked to leave but rather the cops were called as the roommates were throwing her things out the window. Or she called the cops to settle a petty roommate argument and they said, “Wow, this bitch is insane. We gotta get her out of here.”

It seemed as if Keeley’s luck was turning when she scored a luxury two bedroom that was rent controlled. She lived there for two years without getting evicted, a feat of strength for her. However, there was a new landlord who jacked the rent up to market value. During that period, the Recession hit and everyone was affected. Work dried up, and Keeley began to sweat like the rest of the world. So instead of getting a roommate or even moving, Keeley decided to fight her landlord in eviction court.

The East Coast female version of the Michael Keaton character from Pacific Heights, this had not been Keeley’s first rodeo. She knew the ins and outs of eviction court so well that she chose to represent herself. I don’t know what was worse, the fact she had been through this so many times, or the fact she actually did a decent job there for a minute. In order to sharpen her knowledge, Keeley spent countless hours researching. Sure, she wasn’t certified by the New York Bar Association, but she never let a little technicality like that get in her way.

Aside from acting as her own defense, Keeley was also an ardent conspiracy theorist. A member of the Occupy Movement, Keeley had been increasingly more active as time went on, and became convinced the government was tapping her phone. Then she also surmised that her landlord was selling her secrets to these people that were following her. To say she was off the hook was the understatement of the year.

Keeley’s first few times in court proved victorious, but she had a feeling they would be short lived. She also believed the eviction notice to be not because of unpaid rent, but rather, a plot where her landlord was aligning himself with the government. While I have met stoners with more plausible, concrete theories, theirs usually contain UFOs and they know when to knock it off. Keeley was stone cold sober, and that is the true enigma here.

Fearing she would lose and be homeless, Keeley began to cozy up to a suspicious old man who was nearing death. The two began trading racy text messages, and he promised Keeley a place to live for free. However, his living heirs stepped in and put a stop to this. Keeley is hardly Anna Nicole, but they suspected she had other motives.

Time was running out, and Keeley was at a dead end. So she decided to hit me up for a psychic palm reading. At the time, I was working semi-regularly as a palm reader and astrologer to supplement my income as a ventriloquist. Keeley, wanting to know what to do next, consulted me for a reading. Actually, she didn’t consult me. Rather, when we were hanging out she shoved her palm in my direction and demanded to know what the outcome of her eviction proceeding was going to be.

As a reader, this kind of thing was uncomfortable for me. You see, this is the reason I didn’t pursue this vocation further. There were people I read for with medical and legal questions. I don’t want to and don’t like to answer those. My brother and sister are doctors. They went to school for 8 years, not only would it be asinine for me to channel the answer, but also an insult to people with actual knowledge. Same with legal questions.

“Is the marshal coming for me, and do I need to hide?” Keeley demanded.

I took a look at her palm, and wanted to get out of this awkward space right quick. “I think the marshal will come when the judge issues his next ruling.” I told her. The marshal couldn’t legally come just yet, even if the landlord in judge were now in cahoots as Keeley had opined they were earlier that evening.

“What will the judge’s ruling be?!” Keeley demanded, her eyes wide and crazy.

“Consult a lawyer and things will go in your favor.” I wanted nothing more to do with this. Keeley began telling me more and more and asked if any spirits of dead people were around her. I lied and said yes. I just wanted rid of this crazy bitch.

Keeley’s eviction proceeding dragged on, and I didn’t know whether to loathe her for being a deadbeat or respect the fact she stuck like super glue to her skewed morals. It got to the point where she was driving everyone in our crew crazy. Jeanette avoided any and all contact with her, because Keeley became convinced this cougar would let he move in. Her words, “Anywhere she goes, everyone gets kicked out. No thanks.”

Sarit, who was lying to a racist Marine in Indiana about her age in order to entrap a breathing husband found Keeley’s behavior contemptuous. I believe she said, “Why doesn’t she work out a money deal with her landlord. This is ridiculous.” When Sarit calls you ridiculous, you need to take serious stock of your life.

Jessi and Jeanie found Keeley too much to take, and told Nishu that they would not be present if she were to be invited over. That is when Nishu revealed Keeley had a car and thousands of dollars worth of designer jewelry and dresses she could sell to pay her landlord back. Then again, why would our friend ever do the rational thing?

Jessi, Jeanie, Nishu and I were having a Keeley free Sunday. It was our plan because she had just become too psychotic. Just then, Jeanie’s phone got a ring. It was Keeley. We agreed not to pick it up. Then my phone rang, then Jessi’s. However, this ring was weird. It was one ring and then the person hung up. Was Keeley okay? Despite the fact our friend had annoyed us and we did a Regina George by not inviting her to hang out, she was still our girl. This worried us.

Five minutes later, Nishu got a text. It said:

“To friends and family members of Keeley O’Donnell, her body was found this morning in her West Side apartment. She has no family members we can identify in the area. Please call this number if you have any information.”

“This is so terrible!” Jessi said.

“Yeah, and so bizarre. I knew we should have invited her.” Nishu said casting an evil eye at the three of us.

“Nishu, she was off the hook the last time she was here and was trying to go the psychic route. How much crazy am I expected to handle?” I asked.

“She has a point.” Jeanie said siding with me.

We all agreed he should call the number. If our friend had died, we wanted to know. The four of us all began to feel terribly as Nishu tried not once, but six times. Finally he got an answer. In order to assuage us, he put it on speaker. “Hey, what’s going on?” A familiar voice said.

Our jaws dropped. It was none other than Keeley herself. “Keeley, you are supposed to be dead.” Nishu informed her.

“So?” Keeley said.

“So you sent this psychotic text saying you were dead. We were worried.” Nishu was appalled as were the rest of us.

“No one was picking up their phone. What else was I supposed to do?” Keeley replied as if this was no big deal whatsoever.

“Not do something fucked up like you did.” Nishu informed her, aghast that she thought this was an appropriate course of action.

“Look, I’m sorry if I worried you for real.” Keeley whined, “It’s just that-“

“I can’t deal with you now.” Nishu told her and hung up the phone. We all exchanged glances. A pall of silence fell over the room. It had hurt us to cut her out, but we had to. The bitch was too damn crazy. Of course then she sent Nishu an abusive text about how he used to be "cool, long haired and greasy" and now he was just a "sell out." He texted her back informing her that he was an adult who could keep a domicile without testing the legal system multiple times. 

After the awkward fairy had laid her dust,  Nishu suggested we watch Stargate. We agreed. Not another word was spoken about what had happened, and no one mentioned it thereon after. However, it was a silent, unwritten rule that Keeley was no longer an everyday friend.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Real World (John Mayer)

Junior High should be nicknamed Junior Hell. I still remember the mean girls. There was one in particular that delighted in making my day a living nightmare. Encountering her was like Superman encountering Lex Luther, except Lex Luther was somewhat likeable. Yes, her name was Valerie Ransom.

I still see Valerie as she was then. She had an expensive school wardrobe, only one that a credit card and a kid on her own could buy. Her hair was bright blonde, and she had a perky little body. Sure, her breasts were big for a middle schooler, but the dudes didn’t care. Valerie always wore cherry or strawberry lip gloss. Smacking it on her kisser, she was the Queen Bee and was surrounded by her drones. Pre-pubescent boys literally bowed to their makeshift Aphrodite as she passed in the hallway. They would do anything to be seen with her. Valerie was everything they dreamed about in a woman. She was the closest thing they had to that pretty model on the front of Seventeen Magazine.

Valerie delighted into ripping into me. I was an easy target, too. Looking back, this doesn’t just make her  a bitch on wheels and a bully, but also a lazy asshole as well. Yes, I had a weight problem. Of course I suffered from cystic acne. To fight this, I was on a facial medication that made my skin peel and gave me cold sores like a hooker with herpes. Then my mom picked out my clothes, and she still does. Add in braces with rubber bands that always had food in them. Oh, and my parents wouldn’t let me date.

You see, Valerie and I had actually been friendly before junior high, and she was even in my dance studio. Occasionally, we were even in the same gymnastics class. Valerie was also smart at one point, even tested gifted. Like me, she was in the advanced reading group. However, once junior high hit she was done being smart and now on to her true calling, being popular.

“April has no friends! April has no friends!” Valerie Ransom declared one day in homeroom. It wasn’t true. I had friends. They just didn’t wear preppy clothing and hang with her crew.

“Fuck you!” I replied.

“Sorry, don’t do ugly girls.” Valerie sneered. Then she began to sing "April's got no friends" and got the whole homeroom to join in. Our teacher got her to stop, but Valerie let me know this wasn’t the end.

The next day Valerie ripped on my outfit. Yeah, it was one my mother did pick out. I told Valerie her outfit was ugly. It was. She was starting to pick up a few pounds. Puberty does that sometimes. Later that day, a few of her drones surrounded me in the hall. How dare I call Valerie Ransom’s outfit ugly? They were just words, but like any bully Valerie couldn’t take it. Looking back, it was also evidence of how hung up and insecure she was.

To say Valerie hurt me was an understatement. I used to lock my door to my room and cry when I got home from school every day. However, when the flames of hell lick your heals you can stay put and be a victim or keep moving. I decided to keep moving. I was fortune to have a mother who reminded me junior high was not forever. In order not to kill Valerie Ransom and have her drones jump me, I decided the best course of action was to get a goal.

That Christmas, I got my first ventriloquist figure, a Groucho Marx puppet. I also began publishing a monthly column in the youth section of the local paper. After that, I became heavily involved in storytelling competitions. People told me I should pursue a career onstage, that my imagination was good. I told my mom this one day on our walks. To my mom’s credit she never told me no. She looked at me and said, “Baby, if you want to do that, you need to go to New York.”

I still remember the rain coming down, and knowing Valerie Ransom couldn’t get me if I didn’t let her. So I began working and producing content at the local public access station. I also spent time performing my ventriloquist act around town. My summers and weekends were spent building my resume. New York was the goal. As this became apparent, Valerie Ransom became an afterthought. When she saw she couldn’t take me down, Valerie moved her focus to someone else. The sad part was, Valerie’s new target let the Queen Bee destroy her, and for a time this young woman had to transfer schools. Whenever things got tough, I remembered I couldn’t let Valerie win, and that’s what kept me going.

As things improved for me, life was getting ready to serve Valerie Ransom a helping of humble pie. While on the outside she was the stereotypical cheerleader mean girl that everyone hated, within she was a frightened child who had more issues than anyone knew. The caboose kid in a family where her siblings were much older, Valerie had been an accident in a marriage already on the rocks. Her parents divorced when she was a baby. As a result, Valerie had a mother who spoiled her rotten, rarely disciplining let alone grounding her. Valerie’s father was a successful doctor, but resented his daughter’s existence. While his practice was minutes away from our school, he rarely picked his daughter up. Sure, Dr. Ransom paid child support and then some, but he was busy with his new girlfriend who was barely legal herself. Valerie just got in the way. As a result, Valerie had as many daddy issues as a dancer at The Pink Pony.

Valerie’s grades slipped, and not because she wasn’t capable. It was because she was getting an “A” in chasing male attention. Valerie was shameless about pursuing this high, too. She sat with the boys in homeroom, and as the school year edged on had less and less female friends. It was all the attention her dad wasn’t giving her. What was worse was Valerie was hanging out with high school boys, some of my brother Wendell’s friends to be exact. Wendell was always reticent about Valerie, and was never a part of that crowd himself. However, he warned several of his friends to be careful and reminded them that this eager beaver was the same age I was. That kept his conscience clear and his friends out of trouble.

So what happened next was no surprise to anyone looking back. Valerie was curvy and busty, but not fat. Sure, a little chubby, but in a cute kind of way. However, she was in love with one boy, Seth Mallard. A star basketball player who was a year older, Valerie was hot on him and Seth was eager to lead her on because Valerie made herself all too available. Women desperate for affection with low self-worth always do, FYI. Also, Valerie was becoming notoriously clingy, another downside of the negative self-image thing. To get rid of her, Seth told her she was fat and ugly.

Valerie didn’t cry. She didn’t even fight back. Instead, she dropped 40 pounds almost overnight. Her once healthy figure was replaced by a stick girl. One bubbly, outgoing, and someone who was a personality, Valerie now barely spoke above a whisper. She was tired all the time. Before, Valerie was a star cheerleader who was a decent tumbler. Now she had the energy of a cancer patient on the field and struggled through the routine. Right away, students began to gossip like a British tabloid.

Valerie Ransom’s name was followed by the noun anorexia. Yes, the Lifetime Movie subject, or the illness that killed Karen Carpenter. Valerie was every inch the poster child. She was popular, a cheerleader, and all the guys liked her. Everyone was aghast and abuzz as this bag of bones made it’s way down the hall. “It’s terrible Seth said that to her, now she’s going to die!” Kaley Barnes, an overdramatic semi-popular girl stated. “How could he!?”

Danielle Barrens, a friend of mine from church and CCD was also a cheerleader. Despite the fact we were so different, we had been friends since we were kids. Like myself, Danielle was not a big Valerie fan. “I know I should feel bad but this is so ironic because she was just so mean to a lot of people.” Danielle said to me one day.

I nodded. This was true. Danielle continued. “Everyone is acting like this is the story of the century because she is popular. The truth is, it’s not about what Seth said. Her parents are fucked up and crazy. They think feeding her a cookie is going to solve all this.” My friend wasn’t a psychologist but she was right. Eating disorders are more about what’s going on in the inside than the outside, and Valerie Ransom was screaming for help.

When the cheerleading coach told Valerie if she gained weight she would add her back to the roster, this motivated Valerie. Slowly, she ate again and her color returned. It also seemed her overall state was improving, probably through the help of therapy. No one loses that much weight without being mandated to a shrink, FYI. Even though Valerie had been mean to me and there was a part of me that delighted in her downfall, I was glad to see her on the upswing.

However, Valerie began to eat like a starving child that had never seen food, and in a plot line akin to Tina Fey’s Mean Girls the weight began to pile on. Soon Valerie Ransom was two and a half times her original size. Sure, some of it was that her body was nutrient deprived, but also now she was probably bingeing to deal with her issues. While it is sad now but was funny then, she didn’t just take a slice of humble pie but the whole damn bakery.

Instead of getting back on track, Valerie continued to slip further and further into the hole. She abandoned her cheerleader aspirations because it required achievement, something she had become allergic to.  While she still retained her place in the popular crowd she was no longer Queen Bee but was forced to take her a subservient position as a drone. The new Queen Bee types tolerated her, but made fun of her expanding waistline and desperate attempts to gain male attention when she wasn’t present. Of course Valerie became easier than ever, and her nickname amongst the popular guys was “Street Meat.” In order to make herself cooler, Valerie began to party hard and really hit home running with the drugs.

Previously, Valerie was an average student, and now she just plain sucked. She was lucky she could breathe in her nose and out of her mouth. Much of this was because she had wanted to impress boys so much that studying had become an afterthought and then nonexistent. Then of course, there was the waking and baking she now did before school that made her an extra high space cadet with moon boots and all.

One day I was in a history class when our teacher was asking us about the Civil War, and which black leaders were instrumental. The subject was the Underground Railroad, and we were talking about Fredrick Douglas.

Mr. Reardon called on Valerie because it seemed she was sleeping yet again. “I know the answer. It was Martin Luther King who went to Abraham Lincoln to free the slaves. He marched on Washington and everything!” She exclaimed with extra stupid confidence that only a complete moron could possess. We all exchanged glances. Was this bitch for real?

“You are like Kelly Bundy.” Mr. Reardon said. This Gulf War vet rolled his eyes back and the rest of us waited for this walking joke to write itself like it always did.

“Is it because I am pretty?” Valerie asked, vacant eyed. Yes, this bitch was for real.

 “No, because you are that dumb.” He replied. The rest of the class burst out laughing. Was this mean, kind of. But if you knew her and you were there, she was indeed asking for it. Then he made some crack about Valerie coming to class sober and said that in itself for be a scholastic victory.

Valerie had the ego reduction of having to settle for mere drone, and this woman had been Queen Bee since elementary school. There was no way she was going to let this happen without a fight. Every morning, the popular jocks stood in a circle in the hall before homeroom. Many girls fought to get into the interior of the circle, and in order to achieve this one had to date a football player or be a cheerleader. I never bothered with the circle razzmatazz, I had things to do. However, I was friends with the folks in it. Much of it had to do with the fact many of them were second or third generation football players, and their older siblings had played with my brother Wendell. Or their sisters had been friends with him, too. As a result, I had known their families and so it would have been classless for us not to say hello. Plus I was popular for being talented and achieving goals, and athletes respected that. Despite the media stereotype, I found all kids in extracurriculars that got involved kind of bonded.

As a matter of fact, Valerie had lost points with the football captains two weeks previous when she called the water boy, Benji, who had Down Syndrome, a “drooling retard.” Not only did these gentle jocks stick up for their special needs compatriot, but they let Valerie know that she was closer to her choice slur than Benji would ever be.

Valerie had been working for months to infiltrate the circle. Like many an eager young woman, she started on the outer layer and was now working her way back in. Every weekend, she would desperately serve as McDonalds to these popular guys, who had a bite only to throw her away like the cheap food she was. Sure, it was jerk of them, but she kept going back for more punishment. Of course, this also meant battling underclassmen admirers who weren’t nearly as needy let alone easy because they didn’t have to be.

Brian Garfield, a popular wide receiver saw me. His mother had run into my mother and found out I got a lead in The Wizard of Oz. Of course Brian’s sister was a freshmen and slated to be dance captain. He waved and in typical Garfield fashion yelled, “Brucker, WHAT THE FUCK!!! GET IN HERE AND GIMME A FUCKING HIGH FIVE! AWESOME FUCKING WORK ON THE WITCH!”

 I parted the inner circle for my high five that came with a brah hug of sorts. Most of the girls sighed apathetically, they knew I was friends with the guys but wasn’t circle competition so it didn’t phase them. However, Valerie was livid. All those weekends of degrading herself were not paying off the way she thought they would. For years, I had been an inferior being. Now here I was gaining access to the inner-circle with no work whatsoever. If looks could have killed, her eyes would have been a samurai sword waiting to behead me. At the time, I thought this was lame, because how could a person with a life not? However, when someone’s existence is that small and limited, an unintentional action like mine could be the ultimate act of cruelty.

Senior year Valerie and I had a Come to Jesus moment. It wasn’t planned on either one of our parts, either. The jocks had enough of Valerie, and between her trashiness, stupidity, clinginess, and other mess she brought they began to distance themselves from her. Plus she was hitting it harder than ever with the partying, so Valerie began to become a sort of darling of the stoner crowd. One dude in particular that Valerie was in love with was Bobby Parker.

Despite us being opposites, Bobby and I were friends. He was one of my original fans, and always thought the ventriloquism was neat. While Bobby had a girlfriend a district over, he always was eager to rescue me when I was in need. Word on the street was his girlfriend wasn’t keen on me and wanted to beat my ass. I knew he wasn’t mine, so I didn’t make a move. Valerie, who was always desperate for male love and affection, had other ideas. Bobby, who was actually quite bright, was the stoner king. While in several honors classes, his double life was steadily eating him up.

Valerie had hooked up with Bobby several weekends earlier, and she believed it was true love. Bobby was trying to lose her like an old pair of socks with several holes in them. That day, Valerie had scored a ride with Bobby, but he offered me one too in an attempt to buffer the ever desperate Valerie. It was no big deal to me, I always enjoyed Bobby Parker’s company because he cracked me up. To me, Valerie was just another passenger. Valerie, on the other hand, made no secret of the fact she utterly detested my presence. She made this clear by rolling her eyes every time I spoke as we made our journey to Bobby’s Cadillac.

“I call shotgun!” Valerie said when we got to the car. She glared at me letting me know I best not challenge her. Maybe Bobby was my friend, but she had slept with him and I hadn’t.

 “That’s fine.” I replied climbing into the back.

“April, you are my number 1. Don’t give up your seat to anyone.” Bobby said commanding Valerie into the back. She glowered at me.

“She called it, she can have it.” It was only a seat. Valerie glared at me, knowing that while I conceded she had still lost. To me it was just a seat, but to her this was everything. Her gut was hanging over her jeans, and the probability she would graduate was slim and none. Valerie was otherwise failing at life, if she wanted the front she could have it.

It worked out though. Valerie, like Bobby, smoked cigarettes and they could talk freely about their drug usage. This made Valerie happy, and maybe in her mind I wasn’t competition after all. Meanwhile, I was never even battling her to begin with which made the whole thing only completely insane and asinine.

Bobby pulled into the driveway of my house, and greeting me was a banner in the front yard. Purple, sparkling, and with big letters it said, “Congratulations April! You got into NYU!” I nearly fell out of Bobby’s car. Yes, I applied early decision and got in.

When I told my mother what I wanted to do, she told me I needed to go to New York. It was after Valerie had tormented me so badly that I needed to escape, and this made me find not only a niche, but a plan in life.

“Go girl! You’re gonna be famous!” Bobby said high fiving me. Then he gave me a hug. Note, he never hugged Valerie in public.

 “Congratulations, April.” Valerie said in a flat, monotone whisper. The look in her eyes was one I still cannot describe. She wasn’t jealous or angry, but certainly wasn’t happy for me either. Sure, all of her pettiness was never able to break me. However, the more painful truth was that being popular and having the fleeting sensation of male attention had been so important that she neglected to plan for life after high school. It was the realization that the future was not that far away, and time was not the friend she thought it was. 

She did graduate, by the skin of her teeth. After that I lost track of her, because why keep track of people you don’t like? The last I heard she was working as a waitress in a seedy motel, and had a boyfriend who never saw a crack pipe he didn’t like.

For years I harbored a lot of resentment towards Valerie for being the mean spirit she was, but now I see someone who was troubled, pathetic, and lost. Yet Valerie’s value in my life is not lost on me. They say when you meet someone you don’t like, it’s a lesson in how you don’t want to act. Now that I am getting the things I always worked for in my career, the temptation to be a Valerie Ransom is very real and it is there. Then I remember how it felt to be on the losing end of that, and perhaps this is why I am so quick not only to confront a bully, but also to give them their medicine.

On the other hand, Valerie Ransom has served as a partial inspiration for May Wilson, perhaps the most famous of my puppet children. Like Valerie once did, now May sings, “April has no friends.” May and I did this several years ago for a video, and a DJ even mastered a remix. The song has become a regular part of my act, and now the audience joins in. HA! More than anything, if it weren’t for Valerie Ransom, I would have never found what my passion was, and I would have never had the courage let alone drive to come to New York.

To Valerie Ransom, wherever she is, I want to say thank you. Without your efforts, I would have never found a direction let alone dream. However, I harbor no hate toward you, and I am not glad your life turned out the way it did. Instead, I hope and pray you find happiness and peace, as well as life outside of your place in the circle, a guys back seat, or your place at the bathroom mirror.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Open Letter to Ray Chavez

Dear Pastor Chavez,

I write to you as a good Christian woman. As of late, I have been following the Vanessa Collier story. Sir, as a woman of God I am ashamed to be associated with you. Not only did you show bigotry, but you did not let her die with dignity.

Vanessa’s family was grief stricken. This woman had married her partner and was raising her two stepchildren as her own. Many straight men do this all the time mind you, but they are in heterosexual unions so this is okay. She had over 100 mourners to her funeral which meant she was a decent, well liked person. Yeah, she died while cleaning out a weapon, one she probably needed to protect her family from hatred that you preach.

Vanessa’s kin had submitted the video to you days before the funeral. I repeat, DAYS! If Vanessa’s open expression of her lifestyle was a problem for you, the Christian thing would have been to be honest. That way, they could find an alternative venue for their memorial. Instead you let them in the church, the service was to begin, and then you turned them away. Yes, they had a dead body they had to lug across the street along with their heavy hearts. You, Sir, are a disgusting man. What makes this whole thing worse is that you refuse to refund their money. As I recall, stealing is a sin. Look it up.

What was Vanessa’s family supposed to do, edit out her life and her partner because it suited you and your so called beliefs? Maybe they should have done their research better on your church, but you say you welcome wayward people and are a safe haven for homosexuals as well. This is what I refer to as false advertising. Vanessa’s family and friends felt they would be welcomed. Meanwhile, you lied. As I recall, that is a sin as well. Again, look it up.

Granted, maybe the video was misplaced. I would prefer that because that just makes you an imbecile. However, if you knew what was in that video and chose to do this to a grieving family in order to make a point that makes you plain evil. Then again, by all evidence my opinion of you is starting to lean that way. As a woman of God myself, I like to give other believers the benefit of the doubt. However, Sir, you have shown me and many other that you fall short of this mark. 

We can go on all day about the sin of homosexuality and the so called passage in the Bible, the Sodom and Gomorrah. However, it is also lost in translation. The sin, sodomy, is merely anal sex and many straight couples engage in it as well. Additionally, there was mention of oral sex. Again, many straight folks engage as well. Lest we add in Adam and Eve committed original sin by having sex. So by that logic 99 percent of the world is sinning. The Bible does state that sex for the sake of procreation is okay, and most pregnancies are accidental. Therefore most of the world sins on the regular. You must be a lot of fun to have at a picnic.

Some of your followers appeared online terrorizing a group created to support Vanessa and her family. This behavior is far from Christian. When someone pointed out that the Bible okayed rape, they asked if that was the best we had and added that rape was no big deal. One troubled woman who clearly has mental health issues, one would have to in order to even entertain your nonsense for a minute, not only defended rape but pedophilia as well. She claimed because abortion was legal pedophilia should be as well. Then of course she blamed gay people. I will admit I stooped to their level and tried to battle their anti-logic. I also tried to correct their poor grammar. Then I figured, why? They look like idiots, proof that the God of my understanding hates the same things I do.

Then I realized the God of my understanding would not want me to hate but rather pray for the misguided people you minister to. You do not pray but rather prey, that's right I said it. You prey on simple minded people who have experienced adversity that are looking for something to fill the tremendous hole they feel in their heart. Life has been unkind to them, and now you are by making them tithe aka robbing them, and brainwashing them to be rabid zealots. You are not a worker of God nor His messenger but rather a servant of Satan. I say this with confidence. 

I want to inform you that this is 2015, not 1950. There are gay people who are open and honest with who they are. These LGBTQ citizens not only hold positions in the community, but also have families. I work for a boss who is gay. This man is not only my employer but my friend, and has given me opportunities that I would have never otherwise gotten working with anyone else. My assistant, who is also gay, had to flee his homeland because prejudice like yours is unfortunately legal there. He got legal asylum in the US because if someone is assaulted for being gay, the police look the other way. LGBTQ people are also jailed in his homeland constantly. Perhaps my assistant's home nation would be your dream paradise, it has palm trees. 

Many of my friends in entertainment and in the neighborhood are gay. The sad part is, many have to deal with ignorance like yours on a regular basis. My friend Chacho was gay bashed as a teenager because he was who he was in the wrong neighborhood. Three young men beat him to the point where he nearly died, and a scar remained on his face from being cut with a pocket knife. After that, my friend’s drug use took off and that is what eventually killed him. Sure, he was an addict, but it was the bigotry and hatred of people like yourself that kept driving the needle into his arm. Yeah, he had a traumatic childhood, but nearly dying because of who he was threw him over the edge. 

I also want to remind you that my friend Joe encouraged me to write again. This was after I escaped a horrific straight relationship where I was physically assaulted on a regular basis. Mind you your followers hijacked the message board that was started for Vanessa's family, friends and supports. Mind you they said domestic violence was acceptable as well as sexual assault, a bunch of winners by my estimation. Anyway, Joe not only helped me gain my confidence back, but got me to write my book. By your logic the man who choked me to the point where I blacked out was an okay person but my friend who got me to tap into a gift I lost confidence in was destined to damnation. I would hate to see your wife if she is ever let out of the kitchen. 

In my lifetime, I have had the pleasure and gift of seeing LGBTQ people experience marriage equality. I have had the pleasure of attending a lesbian wedding. I hope to attend many more. My composer friend Calvin and his husband are foster parents to a little boy who was taken out of a drug addicted home. In May, they will become loving and giving legal guardians to this child who would have not otherwise had a chance. In my Christian understanding, God would want that child to be with two people who love him and give him a stable environment rather than a deranged heterosexual caregiver who can’t take a crack pipe out of her mouth.

My LGBTQ friends have never once discriminated against me for being straight. There is no persecution against Christians, only those like myself who call your bluff when you come full force with your archaic thinking and hate. I have news for you. If God wanted everyone to be straight we would be. Alas, we are not. I know this is making your head explode, but homosexuality also exists in nature. There have been scientists documenting this. The gay cannot be prayed away. Then again, you probably don't believe in evolution despite fossil findings to the contrary. 

Something you might find interesting: In the South during the antebellum period, the ministers preached from their pulpits that abolishing slavery was a bad idea. These pastors cited passages where they felt captivity was good for blacks. You have a Latino surname, which means you might have some black ancestry. Keep this in mind the next time you take the Bible so literally. Oh, and it has been translated a gazillion times. Unless you speak Aramaic, which no one has for a few centuries, you are not qualified to tell us what anyone teaches.

Jesus once said to some money grubbing rabbis, “My father’s house is not a marketplace.” That means not robbing the family of the dead you  hypocrite. Then again, it is clear from all evidence presented that your followers are weak willed victims who buy your hate. I can see you prey on them and their troubled status in life, their clear need to find a space which you give to them. You are not a shepherd but someone who should be silenced.

Pastor, and I use the term loosely, I grew up around people like you. I know you are not passionate about your faith but use it as a veil of hate. There will be a time when you get judged, and I pray that God takes mercy upon your lost, vile, and twisted soul. I hope and pray that the flames of hell do not make your eternity too unpleasant, because you have tortured and misled a great many in your lifetime. 

Lastly, I pray that God protects others from your misguidance, but ultimately you from yourself.


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

RIP Waffle

Last Sunday my friend Nishu decided to have a brunch. It was because Hedda had departed back to Spain and back to work. Therefore, he was alone. In the olden days, Nishu would have spent his time much differently. This would have meant a cast of Lost Boys and Lost Girls that made the characters of Peter Pan look like a bunch of amateurs. Usually, I would have eagerly been present for the tomfoolery that occurred, which included prank calling people we knew on Google Voice.

Nishu’s apartment served as a sort of lair every Sunday for our crew. These included but were not limited to the following people: Keeley, a makeup artist and conspiracy theorist who’s kerfuffles always ended with a friendly phone call to the local precinct; Sarit, a 34 year old who lied about her age that baited much younger men on with anger management problems; Jeanette, a cougar who had several breast augmentation surgeries that spit men out like watermelon seeds; and of course Jessi who works in television production, a friend I miss very much.

Since Hedda came into the picture, many of these characters have become little more than my descriptions on the page. Keeley, who’s misadventures deserve a blog of their own, has merely become “The K Word,” a sort of Raku Nini, a spirit that shall not be spoken of. Sarit has also faded into the woodwork thankfully, and the last we heard was dating a Haitian man of questionable means who may or may not sell drugs for a living. Jeanette has been travelling since catching feelings for her last conquest, a bus boy who went to community college part time. Jessi works quite often, and she moved to Queens so she unfortunately fell off the map completely. Aside from Jessi, Hedda’s presence had a lot to do with the disappearance of these folks.

Since Hedda has entered the picture, Nishu has become more and more adult. As a result, with Hedda temporarily absent, he has elected to do an adult thing. Instead of inviting one of the many Kramers in the crew over, he elected to have a semi-sophisticated brunch.  

So Nishu messaged me Sunday morning, and then told me Jeanie was coming over as well. Jeanie works with me at the singing telegram company. A night owl, Jeanie sings swing at the local clubs and tumbles in as the sun is coming up. Often she does not rise until noon and don’t bother her until after 2. So we elected to have the brunch at 2 or 2:30, that way Jeanie would be up long enough to have fun, but it wouldn’t be too early for her.

I said Nishu was becoming an adult. Relax, that didn’t mean the rest of us were, silly.

Anyway, Nishu told me via text he wanted to make waffles. This was definitely a change of pace. Nishu probably elected to do this for two reasons: 1, he was lonely and Nishu, like all men, does not do alone time well; 2, Hedda was a pastry chef at one point and Nishu is learning how to cook. While Nishu does not touch the stove, he has become accustomed to Hedda’s cuisine and therefore has become intrigued by the kitchen process. Plus Hedda got him a waffle maker for Christmas.

I came over, and Nishu was most definitely like a man in the kitchen. He had the waffle maker, but no clue how to make waffles. I told Nishu that in order to achieve his goal, he would need waffle mix. My friend looked at me baffled. “There’s a thing called waffle mix!?” Nishu inquired, as if this were the 1800s and I told him about this new invention called the lightbulb.

“Yes, they sell it at the store.” I gently reassured my friend.

So Nishu recommended me go off to the store. That way, he could get champagne for mimosas and waffle mix. Although I am not a cook now, I was growing up. I am substandard at best, but know my way around a kitchen in an emergency. Meanwhile, Jeanie was waiting for the bacon and eggs to be delivered to her house. Note, Jeanie doesn’t cook either but she felt she had to bring something. I suddenly realized something very scary. Out of the three of us, I was going to be wearing captain’s jacket on this mission. OH SHIT BIRD!

Oh shit bird was right. As we walked in the market, it occurred to me Nishu had no clue in hell as to make waffles. “Do we really need eggs and milk?” He asked, wide eyed and serious.

“Yeah. The waffles don’t make themselves.” I told my friend. Then I informed him as a woman I had superior knowledge and he had better bow down. Well Nishu had more money in the bank and paid for everything. So perhaps he won the important fight.

 “How will we know what to do?” Nishu asked me, worried about this undertaking.

“There is the recipe on the back.” I informed my friend. Nishu was such a man. He had no idea how to handle himself around a kitchen. Oh Hedda had her work cut out for her. However, Nishu did have the for thought to put fruit on the waffles and had previously invested in syrup. At least he had almost planned ahead.

When we got back to the ranch, Jeanie arrived with the much needed bacon and eggs. She had woken up late, about 1, and felt a little tired but was excited for brunch. We loaded up on protein aka brain food. Then we began our adventure. As we started, it was clear we were quite unprepared for battle. No, Nishu did not have a measuring cup.  “Would a regular cup do the trick or do I have to go to the hard wear store?” Nishu wondered.

“That is a good question. I don’t cook so I don’t know.” Jeanie said as she lit a cigarette. The explorers were at a standstill. Jeanie then decided to contribute to the cause. She took Nishu’s remote control, and found banned commercials on youtube. After that, she began making the mimosas, the liquid food group. Somewhere, Julia Child was hitting her head against a waffle iron in the afterlife. In all irony, Julia was a Smith woman and Jeanie from Mount Holyoke. Maybe subconsciously, Jeanie had planned this against her rival sister school without even knowing.

 “It’s pretty close. If it doesn’t add up, we can adjust the recipe.” I informed them, using my middle of the road NYU on the spotness. Yes, the would be Ivy I graduated from, where we have inflated egos, huge vocabularies, and pretend we know everything.

I began the mixing. It still frightened me I was the best cook out of the three of us. All was going well until we discovered we needed oil. Like someone who seldom cooks, Nishu did not have oil. So I told him butter could be used. Jeanie poured a mimosa as Nishu nuked the t-spoon of butter in the microwave for 30 seconds. We began mixing. “What do we need to stir with?” Nishu asked and discovered a knife. Was this man for real?!

“A fork would probably work.” Jeanie told him. She was right on this.

“Yeah, you want to wisk it. I made these as a kid.” I told him. As I began wisking the waffles, we all began to dive into the banned, inappropriate commercials more and more. Jeanie made sure we didn’t mention “The K Word.” You see, Jeanie hates that everytime we mention Keeley, we end up gossiping about her the entire time. It’s not our fault, Keeley is just a disaster that never stops and is entertaining from afar. Not to mention that when we do speak of her, she calls and we are stuck inviting her over. When she is in a whacky place, this could be a big mistake. Brunch was peaceful. This was a good call on Jeanie’s part.

When the time to put the waffles on the grittle came, there was another crisis. “Do you have any Pam?” I asked Nishu. Shitbird McDouble, this was the one thing I forgot!

“What’s that?” Nishu inquired.

“It keeps the waffles from sticking. You’re in a world of hurt without it.” Jeanie told him.

“No.” Nishu was surprised. “Waffles stick?” Jeanie and I both nodded. This was getting more and more scary by the moment.

“We can just use butter. Any anti-stick.” I said. This felt bizarre, surreal, and outright odd that out of the three of us, I was the one with the good ideas in this department. If there was a massive fire in the neighborhood, the three of us would somehow be responsible.

“It will just be high calorie and bad for you.” Jeanie said, mimosa in one hand, cigarette in another, and half eaten bacon on her plate. It was clear this whole group was on the longevity plan as it was, so why not go the extra mile and just buy the damn heart attack!?

 “But butter always tastes better.” Jeanie said as she finished off her cigarette and went for the bacon. Note: Julia Child would have used lard.

Nishu greased the waffle maker and in the mix went. “How will we know when it’s done?” Nishu asked, now panicked that he might not know what to do next.

“Good question…..Does the waffle maker come with directions?” Jeanie asked intelligently. While she had no idea what to do, she is always a problem solver. Got to give my friend that.
“Yeah.” Nishu said turning the box over. “It says something about a blue light. When the light turns blue, the waffles are done.”

“There you go.” Jeanie told him.

A few minutes passed. “Are the waffles done?” Nishu wondered, panicked that he would miss his goodies.

“Is the light blue?” I asked. Of course as a man in the kitchen Nishu had forgotten all about the directions and just wanted results.

“No.” Nishu said.

“Then the waffles are not done. Give it a minute or two.” I gently informed him. Sure I was wearing the captain’s jacket on this mission, but I had a feeling the plane was about to crash.

Then the blue light went off. Time to taste our waffles. We split it into sections so each of us could try. So far so good. Yum. Perhaps there was hope. With newfound confidence, we decided to make another waffle.

Nishu wanted to improve upon my original and wanted to make it browner. So he put more waffle mix in and off he went. A few minutes later, another waffle was produced. It was crispier and extremely delicious. Perhaps there was a future for the three of us in the kitchen. Maybe we could do this. So Nishu began to plot for the best waffle yet.

With his newfound zeal, Nishu prodded me to post on facebook that we were making waffles. That way Hedda could see what was happening several time zones away. Secretly, I hoped she could teleport and take over, but no such luck. Therefore, we had to do without.  

Nishu, Jeanie, and I were now becoming increasingly cocky in our waffle making. Self-assured, Nishu poured the final batter into the waffle maker. As we waited, in our minds we saw ourselves rivaling Waffle House, the destination of all drunken comedians coming from a road trip who needed to sober up for the ride home. We saw our waitresses looking like Playboy models instead of the welfare mothers our mental rival employed. The blue pilot light went off and stoked we were. However, our joy was short lived.

“Oh my God! It won’t open!!!!” Nishu exclaimed. The waffle maker was holding our creation hostage. “What happened!!!!”

We were panicked. Nishu tried to pry it open. This was a fail. Then he got a fork and a knife. Finally the waffle maker opened. There was our tragedy before us. Nishu tried to pry this pathetic creation out of the jaws of death it had succumbed to. However, the waffle would not come out. Alas, it met it’s doughy demise.

“What happened!” Nishu was now sad. Our adventure in waffle making ended in ruin.

“Did you add butter?” I asked Nishu, suspect that he had not.

“I had to add butter again?!” Nishu asked as his face drooped with utter despair.

“Yeah, you always need to add butter.” Jeanie told him empathetically. I nodded in unison. Nishu’s face continued to fall into a look of utter defeat, just like our culinary disaster in front of us.
“Hedda would have never let this happen if she were here!” Nishu shrieked. Jeanie and I laughed. Oh this waffle was a gonner.

Feet away, Nishu had immortalized in his refrigerator the pancakes he and Hedda had made. These were delicious apparently, and had Hedda’s awesome touch. Those pancakes were not murdered by three incompetent cooks. And now here in front of us was the waffle we killed. Oh what tangled webs we weave.

Of course I had remembered two years earlier, another life time ago, the cast of characters coming in and out. Keeley would have been yelling about some conspiracy theory. Sarit would have been lying to some random free dating site dude about a fake pregnancy so she could keep him. Jeanette’s hair would be messed from her latest one night stand with a man half her age. Jessi would have a crazy friend with her, one who escaped a harrowing adventure. Jeanie would be getting trashed out of her mind to tune out the chaotic drama live on center stage, no fourth wall. Alas, I would have the curse of being the record keeper. In these misadventures, there would be no cooking. There would be a lot of drinking and cigarette smoking perhaps, but no food unless we ordered out. Or maybe leftover junk Nishu had, but even that was suspect.

Either way, although it was a disaster, this adventure was one of growth. There was no drama live and in color unfolding in front of us. Two of our waffles had been successful, but the third died. He would forever be remembered for his bravery in the face of the inferno. So yes, this adventure had been more of a success than we realized. That is when the three of us decided to perhaps start a tradition, a brunch every other Sunday. We also plotted a celebration upon Hedda’s return. Note: I will elect her to cook, she will be much more successful than we were.

I suppose slowly but surely, the three of us are (somewhat) headed towards being real grownups. Yes, this story did end happily ever after. As for the poor waffle, his carcass is currently being cleaned and he will receive a proper agnostic burial.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Comedy Horror Show: Barry Sedelmen

I still remember the first time I met Barry Sedelman. I was nineteen years old, and he was booking comedians for the radio. At the time, I was only starting to perform ventriloquism in comedy clubs, something nearly unheard of in NYC. Aside from Otto and George and many one or two that would wander in, there were not that many of us. Barry discovered me via a craigslist post and began booking me as a mock caller for shows. This was because in addition to performing ventriloquism, I can also do distinct things with my voice. Often it has been called my trademark. Of course I was earning money from comedy. To say I was stoked was an understatement.

Barry was a fascinating character. He had spent  a lot of time in LA, and even had some success out there. At the time, Barry was also developing a project for children and wanted a puppeteer, a perfect opportunity for yours truly. As a comedian, Barry had performed regularly at The Comedy Store and had also supplemented his income not only by booking for shock jocks but also smut talk shows like Jerry Springer and the like. In the early 90s, Barry had also recorded a rap parody that had become a hit and even gotten some traffic on MTV. Then something happened and his career kind of fizzled in that vein. Either way, I was intrigued.

Barry’s office was in a building in Lower Midtown off of 5th Avenue. Anytime I went there, it seemed no one was in the building. I took into account the first few times I visited were late at night. This seemed to be the case in the day. In the room he called an office there was a computer, a chair, a fold out table, and old food scraps. I knew he booked folks on the radio, but what he did specifically boggled my mind. As in it wasn’t quite clear. Still, Barry was a friend.

He showed me his children’s book. The title escapes my mind, but I remember the story was about as child appropriate as The Brother’s Grimm. It was a tale of three birds on a quest, where one bird ate poison berries and began to have hallucinations. This bird flipped out, killed a bunch of other birds, and then got really sick. I was appalled by how graphic this was, and he asked for my input. I told him perhaps we could soften the plotline and he seemed receptive. Maybe the shock jock world had gotten to his mind. Either way, this scared the crap out of me and I was an adult. Then Barry mention his friend Melinda was helping, but she was jealous of other women and I should just be aware. The whole thing was strange, but this is show business. Everyone is strange.

Barry’s family was somewhat eccentric as well. His father was a world famous concert piano player who had performed live at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center. As a kid, Barry would travel the world and lived in NYC during the summer. All the men in his family apparently attended this military school as well. Barry also had a brother Bart, who was an inventor and had a patent on a sock of some sort. However, Bart often travelled the world and would call him from strange places and random time zones. His sister and mother were mere housewives. The whole family attended Northwestern University where Barry’s father was a generous with alumni giving, Barry included. His father had encouraged him to go to his alma mater for theatre, but Barry chose English Lit instead. He and his father had a contentious relationship, mostly because Barry was the familial screw up.

Right away, Barry’s creepy side began to surface. At nineteen, you don’t have the radar for these things so the events that follow are always quite interesting. Because of my desire to hit the stage with my puppets, Barry decided to show me the ropes. Plus it gave us an opportunity to talk shop about ventriloquism because this was an interest of his. Anyway, Barry took me to a club that is now closed and plied me with drinks. I was underaged, but figured getting trashed would make me look adult. Of course the fact he was buying a person not legal to drink alcohol didn’t phase Barry in the least at all.

Then again, in show business age is just a number in some respects. People of all ages work together on a production, and the youngest to the oldest are expected to have the same level of professionalism. The fact Barry and I were hanging out and becoming drinking buddies didn’t strike me as odd. Looking back though, Barry was a good 18 years older than I was. His so called friends were all about my age. Now this would strike me not only as weird, but worthy of running in the other direction like I saw Godzilla.

Our drinking adventures were strange. Once, during a comedy show the emcee thought we were a couple and Barry talked me into pretending to make out with him. He shoved his tongue down my throat, not slimy in the least. Another time, we went to a show at the UCB where Barry spoke in a Middle Eastern accent the entire time and got us free falafels after the show from the cart man. Then of course there was the time Barry played me messages that various shock jocks left him and we had a gas over that. Sometimes, Barry would even prank call people we knew as we sat there with a bottle of Vodka. Sure, it was not normal and now I would pull myself away from this friend. At the time it was fun though.

Barry’s interest in puppets deepened, and he wanted a puppet made. Once, during our massive drinking adventures Barry and I were at the local bar. He confided in me that his father could be quite abusive sometimes and would tell him that he was worthless. Barry said he developed low self-esteem and even spent time in a mental hospital. Sure, this should have been another red flag but this underaged drinker and her sense were being muted by the glass of Jack straight that she held in her hand. Barry told me that this low self-esteem often appeared on his shoulder in the form of a lizard, and that is the puppet Barry wanted made. So I referred him to a man I knew in Canada that could do the job.

While Jack Daniels muted my judgment, I would soon be struck sober when Barry began to turn on me out of the blue and for no reason whatsoever. One day, Barry called me and I was unable to pick up my phone because I was showering. So he left me not one but five messages threatening to kill me. To say I was scared was an understatement. When Barry spoke, it was in a slow, calculating tone. In one message, he even threatened to put me in the trunk of a car with duct tape on my mouth. However when he saw I wasn’t picking up Barry left me a long message apologizing. I chose not to answer. Then he left me a message promising me radio work. Money changes everything, so I called back.

Barry and I dreamed up a bit for my next appearance where I would insult a rival show. While it was my brainchild, he helped me tweak it. Barry thought I was brilliant and even said so himself. To celebrate, we got a bottle of Jack Daniels, my pick this time, and listened to old comedy albums in his office. We also smoked cigars. Of course I tumbled home smelling like an old drunk Irishman but oh well. Ya only live once, right?

Two days later I was on the radio. The host didn’t think it was brilliant, and neither did the producer. As a matter of fact, the producer screamed at me, saying that now I was costing the network money. I was appalled and aghast. Barry had okayed this bit. Minutes later Barry called to chew me out. I informed him he okayed the bit. Barry told me this had never happened. I knew it had, and was there when he worked with me on it. I even wrote it down line for line. That fucking liar! Barry then told me it was okay, he wasn’t worried. That is when he invited me to meet his brother Bart the inventor.

I went to Barry’s office, but he was out and about doing God only knows what. Bart was there waiting. I still remember Bart as being a freaky human being, more freaky than his brother if possible. Bart had jet black hair, yellowish brown skin, and deep set eyes with circles under them. He barely moved and spoke in a monotone, almost as if he spent all of his time in a funeral home. Bart informed me Barry had given him an air freshener because I had “stunk up the show.” This angered me, especially since it wasn’t my fault, and by all evidence Barry had set me up to fail.

I told myself to stop being so paranoid, Barry was my friend. Minutes later, Barry called. I overheard his voice on the phone and laughed at what he said. As I did this, Bart smacked me on the arm hard enough to leave a bruise. I was stunned for a minute, shocked at what had just happened.

 “What the hell was that?” I asked him.

“You laughed out of turn.” Bart seethed with distain. Now this was just plain creepy. The Sedelman’s were giving the Munster’s a run for their money. I made an excuse for having an appointment I forgot about and bolted out of there.

Later I found out these people would spook the Munsters out of the ballpark and even made the Addams Family look mainstream. Barry’s father was an eccentric who loved the outdoors so much he actually lived in the woods for five months out of the year in their native Wisconsin. However, his mother was petrified of the outside world and never left the house. There were times she wasn’t seen for extended periods of time and newspapers would pile up on the front porch, and the neighbors would call the police concerned she was dead. Then it would be found she was alive and well. Bart, the brother I met, would disappear for years at a time only to pop up on the other side of the world near death or in a foreign jail in need of legal assistance. Once he felt he had been poisoned by a terrorist organization for information they felt he harbored. The only normal one was his sister Joanne, who was a housewife that had no contact with the rest of the family. They all visited once a year at Christmas, and she kicked them all out the next day.

I got updates on Barry here and there, but managed to avoid all contact. It was to the point where he became a mere memory until one night I got a phone call. Barry had managed to connect with my friend Jake, a sometimes comedian and videographer who has worked with some big time people. The two were cruising on the West Side Highway in a car they rented. Barry had just gotten back from visiting his family in Wisconsin. He said he knew our last encounter had been terrible and apologized. Barry admitted that he was bipolar and was off his medication at the time. While this should have made me weary, I have had my share of issues. So I told him it was alright. Maybe he had changed.

Three months later, Jake called me along with Barry again. After a hiatus because of mental health issues, Barry had decided to record music again and even wanted to produce shows in New York. I knew over the years I had grown and changed, and maybe Barry had as well. Barry said he had recorded a song and a major label was behind it. While I was still reticent about spending time with Barry, he was well connected. Sure, the opportunity was unpaid but it could get major exposure as Barry promised. So I went for it.

When I saw Barry again, it was as he was before he went crazy. We chatted and caught up. I figured at the least the shoot could be fun. It was far from. While I like to have fun on set, I am also there to work. Barry was not. In between goofing around and being off task, he didn’t know the words to his own song. What should have taken an hour took two or three. As an added setback, Barry had married a Spanish woman, Carmen, in order to get her into the country. While they were only man and wife on paper, Carmen insisted on controlling Barry’s life. In between takes she called to yell at him. When she wasn’t harassing him, Carmen was calling Elena, another girl in the video, to yell at her. According to Carmen, Barry was just sleeping with everyone in the video. As the day wore on, it occurred to me there was no major label behind this.

To top it off, it was the beginning of winter and I was already under the weather. Barry insisted Elena and I dance in bikinis for his video. I told him no, I was working for free and had no health care at the time. Elena was a little more willing but not much. Finally, they wanted to go back to Jake’s to shoot another scene, and Barry had an errand to run. In the meantime I got a call from a friend and told her what was up. “Get the fuck out of there.” She advised.

I made my apologies and left. Barry took it upon himself to call me and harass me into working for free some more. By that time, the adventure left me so drained I was asleep. However, I found out from friends that stuck around that I did the right thing by leaving. When I left, someone had come and brought a bunch of drugs. Thus the substance use took over the evening and no one did a lick of work.

I told myself I was avoiding Barry, but this would only last for a week. A friend of mine was making a film, and Barry had somehow wormed his way into Tom’s life as well. In the film, Barry was Barack Obama and I was Sarah Palin. As usual, we both had our puppets. When I saw him, it was as if the music video debacle had never happened. Barry, if anything, was eager to show me the puppet he had made all those years ago. He named his puppet Herman: The Lizard of Low Self Worth. Of course Barry told me not to bother with my puppet Officer E, one of us was enough. I figured I would let him win this one. 

As we waited to shoot another low budget masterpiece, and trust me I did plenty in those days, Barry told me he was producing a show at a flagship club in the city. While this meant dealing with Barry, I knew this was legit because the club manager Chad had emailed me two days before. From all appearances, it seemed Barry was not in the pilot’s seat and thank goodness for small miracles. So Barry invited me to the corner store to talk. I figured what could possibly happen.

As usual, I had underestimated Barry. When he got into the corner store, Barry pulled Herman out from his backpack and began harassing patrons with his puppet. While my public puppetry is fun, Barry was just plain obnoxious and abusive. At first they laughed nervously in hopes he would go away, but this only kept egging Barry on. Then he purchased a bottle of water, and Herman tried to drink it. Instead of ending it there, he purposely spilled it and the store clerk had to clean it up. Then Herman the Lizard of Low Self-Worth began making racist, anti-Semitic jokes. The store owner threatened to call the cops, and I took Barry by his shirt and pulled him out of there.

When we left, Barry hit the sidewalk laughing. “They thought it was real!” Barry said nearly falling over from giggling.

“Barry, they were appalled.” I said unafraid to be honest at this point.

“No, they knew it was a joke.”

“He wanted to call the cops you idiot.” I said turning the corner to where we were filming.

Shortly after, we filmed our scene. I was Sarah Palin and Barry was Barack Obama. We were supposed to have a confrontation. Most film fights are staged, and the goal is not to hurt your acting partner for real. Barry however, had other plans. At 6’3”, 250 pounds he charged in on me hitting me in the face. Not expecting this I screamed. Barry went to hit me again. This time I blocked him. Then he hit me in the stomach nearly knocking me down. Blood ran down my face from where he hit me in the nose originally. When the scene was finished I was in so much pain I was crying.

“We made that look realistic.” Barry said helping me up.

“No, you are psychotic!” I screamed and ran away.

Days later, I was contacted with a definite date for Barry’s show not by Barry but by the then club manager Chad. In the email, Chad made sure to clarify that while Barry technically created and produced the show, Chad was in charge of operations. This could only be good. The less anyone had to deal with Barry the better. While I didn’t want to deal with Barry at all, this was a chance to be a regular at a flagship club in the city, a place where any comedian dreams of getting passed, if all went well. So I bit the bullet and took my chances.

The show was a musical comedy competition. While this was not my forte, it was a chance to show off my puppetry and skills as a singing telegrammer. Not to mention I had a closet full of costumes and ideas. I am not musical per se, but have a treasure trove of ideas. I lasted on the show for three weeks before I was eliminated for no reason whatsoever. It was the producers vote.

I had no idea why I was scratched. One other contestant had forgotten her song lyrics, and another had given a performance to a crowd that barely tolerated him. Afterwards, Barry tried to comfort me. My friends that came told me I got robbed and even the audience members agreed. There was a part of me that was upset, but another part of me was relieved. This was my chance to get away from Barry and cut the ties for good. At the same time, Chad, the club manager, had liked me. I knew Barry would burn this bridge, and maybe this was my way of getting in at this A List Palace.

But Barry didn’t want to get away from me. He called me repeatedly to ask me to be a judge on the show. I ignored his calls. Barry called me several times, I believe 30 and emailed me about 100 times. The emails came so frequently that I soon blocked them. I had no interest in working with Barry in any capacity ever again. Maybe he was on psych meds, but a shitload of good they were doing him. During that period, I made a friend of Chad, the club manager who was a huge fan of mine. So I sent Chad a package to see about getting regular spots.

Chad called me and we talked. He invited me to be a part of the show I was dismissed from as a judge. Believing what happened was as reprehensible as everyone else did, Chad divulged the full story. Apparently the audience and Chad had pulled for me, but a contestant needed to be eliminated. Rachael Donaldson, the girl that forgot her lyrics, had just had a viral hit. However, I was musically weaker and will admit that I am. Barry pushed for my elimination because Rachael had a lead at a major label. Chad didn’t fold, but the other club manager Chris, a bit of a milquetoast, did.

I told Chad there was no way in hell that I could work with Barry ever again in any capacity, and told him the truth about Barry in the calmest way possible. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Barry had proven to be a headache and problem for Chad. His antics were tiresome, but also had been costing Chad money. That is when Chad decided that despite the fact Barry was creator of the show, it was more important to have me on as a judge. So Chad informed Barry he was no longer welcome at the club in the event that I was going to be there, thus banning Barry from his own show.

For the next three months, the show went smoothly and my Monday nights were fun filled. I rubbed elbows, made friends, and was VIP at perhaps the best room in the city. Barry was no where to be found and thank goodness. Chad departed from the club a few months later and the show folded, but my experience had been good. During that period, I met more people who had Barry Sedelmen horror stories. Many had been harassed by Barry, his quasi-wife Carmen, or had a run in with his creepy brother. Some had even gone so far as to take legal action. Soon Barry’s antics became so he couldn’t show his face in NYC. Apparently, his behavior had followed the same pattern on the West Coast hence his having to leave LA.

The last development I got on Barry was that his quasi-wife tried to stab him and he ended up in the ER. Then he decided to leave NYC and now is living in Wisconsin with his mother. This past Christmas, Barry dropped me a Christmas card telling me he had been reading about my adventures as a ventriloquist and wanted to manage me. Apparently, he has a lead at several clubs in the Midwest and has “big plans” for me.

Taking a deep breath, I said to myself, “Barry, I love you from far away. That is, a galaxy far, far away. And even that is not far enough.” Then I pressed the block button. While the stories are funny now, I think my days of Barry adventuring are over.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Puppet Shoes and Other Things

This past weekend, the one before the one coming up, was a whirlwind. Last Friday night I helped contribute to a Guinness Record for Longest Variety Show. I know I keep going on about it, but it still blows my mind that I contributed to a victory that will be in a book I used to hog constantly in my elementary school library. After that, I performed as a part of Little Laughs at Jalopy Theatre that Sunday. Thursday was spent finalizing a writing project, and Saturday preparing for Sunday.

Getting ready for the show Sunday was slightly stressful. This was in part because I was tired from being constantly on the go, but also because an audience of kids is very unpredictable. Sometimes they are with you, but when they turn God Bless America. While this is pretty rare, it does occur. More than anything, the factor that makes me reticent about kids shows are the adults involved. Sometimes the other performers are crazy, and not in a good way. Other times the organizers want you to go through all this red tape and take themselves so seriously. Or the parents are just plain rude and think that as an adult who entertains children you are utterly stupid.

This was not the case at all with the Little Laughs Show at Jalopy. The audience was wonderful, both children and parents. Not only were the young ones engaged, but their parents were as well. The host was an awesome master of ceremonies. Sure, the kids enjoyed the show but the parents laughed as well. When the parents laugh at a kid’s entertainer, that is always, always, always a good sign. The other two acts were amazing. One woman played guitar and had a story coloring book that went along with her song. Then the magician, and a magician can go either way, was both funny and skilled at his craft.

When it came for my turn, the kids were a great audience. They were rambunctious because they were into my show, but they were wonderful. These kids were gentle spirits too. One remarked that one of my puppets seemed “mean.” I never felt Sweetie Pie Kincaid and her prankster sensibilities were mean. Still, it speaks to the fact that there has been outcry against bullying, and perhaps we are headed towards a kinder, gentler generation. I found I really enjoyed these kids, and they really enjoyed the show. Afterwards, the host teasingly told me I had a stalker.

The event made me want to do more with children. I did when I was younger. In my hometown I entertained at pre-schools and such with my children, or my collection as a British journalist recently called it. I also did a show where I read bedtime stories to children called Storytime with April and Friends. Filmed on a shoestring, it aired on public access in 36 states, 6 countries, and the world wide web. During a street performance, I actually met someone who used to label my tapes. It was kind of col actually.

This past year, I have been trying to go less blue. I wasn’t originally even a dirty club comic so to speak. However spots are late at night, plus open mics are just one big, bad filth fest of easy punchlines and then off you go. Nothing against those who work dirty, God only knows I have. Heck, a lot of those folks supported me the most. Still, after a while my act was dark blue. Then again, Otto Petersen who I admired greatly, defined blue. There is nothing wrong with blue.

Yet in a way I feel ready to try for the cleaner set. Some is that I want to do more with kids again. Some is that my career is taking me on television and I don’t want to cost the network money. Some of it is I want a new challenge and am ready for it. Then lastly, some of it is that while my beloved cabaret crowd loves blue, it’s baby blue. When I did the Guinness Show, I found the crowd responded to the better written jokes than they did at the shock humor. Note: The shock humor was used to wake them up because some of them had seen nearly 6 hours of show.

I want to be funny to both kids and adults. Richard Pryor was. While most don’t know this, he had a short lived children’s show that was cancelled. It was a disagreement over money, nothing else. Still, he was good at it. Then again, Richard Pryor defined funny then and still does now.

This past Monday these thoughts poured through my head, as well as finding my chap stick. The temperature was dropping and the new year still quite new. While all the work I did in 2014 is paying off, that year nearly killed me. I can’t do another bipolar 365. While the highs were amazing, the lows were depraved in a way I never imagined. One minute I was in heaven, and then the next wandering in the Valley of the Shadow of Death wondering when I was going to get out if ever. But it gave me humility making heaven even greater than imagined.

Then I got a facebook message. Someone working the event informed me one of May Wilson’s shoes was left at the club. I had been so wiped out that I hadn’t realized our girl had lost her shoe Cinderella style. This person, bless his soul, had been kind enough to leave the shoe in the sound booth. I called the club and they told me to swing by about 5 PM.

The woman working the front, a nice lady, cabaret type, had a good sense of humor about the whole thing. “In all the time I have worked here, you are my first puppet shoe call.” She informed me laughing. There is always a first time for everything I suppose. Only days before we had all broken a world record and now they had a lost puppet shoe. Oh the times, the times…..

As I left the club, I remembered how ten years before I had decided to go for this ventriloquist thing for throttle for the first time. On cold nights like that I went from mic to mic to mic using my food money for stage time and transportation. Sometimes I did homework when others were onstage, because if I flunked out of school I had to go home. It was my mom’s rule.

The year before had the same bipolar spirit, and I remember I had almost left New York. But I didn’t. I kept fighting. This crossed my mind as I fear in a way what 2015 will bring, because the downs of the year past nearly killed me. Then I remember I kept going ten years ago, and didn’t give up. All the hard work that young woman laid down has gotten me to this point. Things are coming together, not so much because I am good at what I do, but because I have always known who I was, worked hard, and stuck to my guns.

I am that puppet girl. My puppets are pranksters but all in good fun. Sometimes they lose their shoes. Like real children I reign them in, and just like any other family, we keep going.