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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Diary of a Hell Gig

Wednesday's booking shouldn't have been anything close to a hell gig. Sadly, it was.

I had to head to Navy Pier for one hour's worth of strolling juggling entertainment at a corporate reception. My call time was 6 PM and the show was scheduled to begin at 6:30. All of these facts are what I have on my contract.

Since I live about 45 minutes away without any Chicago rush hour traffic, I gave myself a HEALTHY two hours of drive time to make my sis o'clock call time. TWO HOURS is more than enough to make it to Navy Pier any other day of the week. Not today.

Among the things working against me was traffic for the Madonna concert at the United Center. I respect that she has such a large fan base to this day, but really...Madonna stopping traffic? She hasn't stopped traffic in years.

There was also the usual traffic suspects such as construction and some sort of accident along the way. In short, it became obvious to me that there was a chance I'd be a tad late for the call time but virtually no chance of being late for the start time.

The event planner that booked me through an agency I work for often became aware of the awful traffic situation when some of their limos and shuttles were calling in with reports of dreadful bumper-to-bumper conditions and she called me around 5 PM to check in. I told her my status and we were both in agreement that everything was in order and there was no need to worry. I was told to take my time, drive carefully, and give an update a little down the road.

Thankfully, I managed to get through traffic and was able to call when I was about 10 minutes away from Navy Pier. I was on schedule to be only about 10 minutes late for my 6 PM call time, if I was to be late at all and my client was all happy and relieved. I was considerably less tense as well...For about 10 minutes.

Remember last week, where my gig at The Alley found my car locked in a garage and me having to head downtown the next day to retrieve my car? Well, I got the car just fine, as I mentioned in my post. What I forgot to do was put all my juggling equipment from that gig BACK into my car. It was sitting comfortably in the trunk of April's car and I found myself with precious few things to juggle at the event!

Now the thought of such a tragedy actually occurred to me midway through today's traffic tragedy and I'd already taken a mental inventory of just what I had in the car that could suffice for a single hour's worth of strolling juggling. I tend to juggle very little at strolling gigs anyway and focus on using comedic entertainment & other theatrics to entertain the crowd so I really only needed a few things. A few things was all I had.

I brought in my juggling clubs, which I keep in the car "just in case" and buy was this a "case". I also brought in a comedy bowling ball prop and three stuffed penguins. Not the Flying Penguini, which are meant to be juggled. No, I brought in my three resident car penguins and told them they were going in the game. I figured that with my ability and my confidence I could not only pull this off, but I could do it all without being late for the event.

Put me in, Coach!At this time is was about 6:15 PM. My car was parked and I was right by the Grand Ballroom, ready for action. I checked in with the gal I'd been talking to on the phone during my drive and she was all smiles and laughs. However, when I checked in with "the boss" (After a much needed bathroom trip - two hours in traffic!), I was greeted with, "Get in there. The show has started and you are very, VERY late! You were supposed to start at 6:15 and be here by 5:45."

Taken a bit by surprise I explained that my contract clearly states that I start at 6:30 and, while late for the call time of 6 PM, was not late for the show. Plus, I'd been in constant and considerably more relaxed contact with her associate who stressed no worry about tardiness. She simply told me she wasn't in the mood for an argument and I had to get to my station to start work.

Station? I'm strolling the room. I've got no station. I brought this up to her and she looked at me as if I was purposefully crapping on her pancakes.

"No, you're on a stage juggling the entire time and you're very, VERY late." Seeing that I was to be stuck on a stage for over an hour I offered to bring in my plate spinning props to do something a little more spectacular than what I'd brought in for a strolling performance. She didn't want to waste any more time and led me to a stage, six feet above the ground, surrounded by bar stations on all sides, each one having a tower of glassware resting on top.

So here I was with my few props and a whole lot of confusion. See, where most people can be late for a job once in awhile, if an entertainer is late for a job, that guy could NEVER WORK AGAIN! Leaving two hours for a gig doesn't save you because I should have left three hours early and every event planner and agent will tell you so. After 21 years of building a stellar reputation it all could go to shit in the five minutes you are late for a show. That's among the many awful things about my business.

But I wasn't upset. I had a contract that proved I wasn't late. They can be mad at me and complain to the agency that booked me, but the miscommunication, if any, was between them. I just had to last the hour plus the ten extra minutes (I started at 6:20 instead of 6:30) and not upset the already frazzled client any further. Moreover, I wasn't going to catch any grief for NOT being late to a gig. I was worried about how to make sure my reputation was intact and guarantee that I wasn't going to be blamed for something I didn't do.

Afterwards we chatted and I did my best to smooth things over. What surprised me was that she was told I would be spinning plates and other feats of spectacular juggling goodness and I was told I'd be strolling the floor, juggling from table to table. She insists she was very clear about the earlier call time and start time, even though the agency that booked me in very thorough and when confirming all performers to the event, was not told of any sort of earlier time. It was something of a disaster.

She did cover my parking at the Pier though, which is both extremely nice and unheard of at these events.

When I got home I marveled at how up and down my emotions were with this thing. I was so proud of myself for making the gig in time, only to find out I was "late". I realized my stupidity in leaving my props in another car, but enjoyed my clever resourcefulness, finding myself eager to make this hour pass by without any hint of my error. Of course, that was shot to hell when I was told I was NOT strolling & juggling for an hour. This was, without any warning nor similar harbingers of doom, a hell gig and I was bowled over by the damned thing.

I have also been suffering with an extremely sore lower back, compliments of the stage I was on for 70 minutes.

But hey, it is all over, right? Please? Do I still get paid?


Anonymous Older, Wiser Brother said...

NO, No money for you. God forbid you should expect to get paid for working overtime and being resourceful and trying to make the errant boss and/or agency look good. Nope. No money....

OK, maybe they will pay you, but it will be in arcade tokens from Aladdin's Castle.

4:48 AM

Blogger Andy Land said...

LOL! Aladdin's Castle? Are they still around?

9:00 AM

Blogger golfwidow said...

Good lowered, what a goat rodeo. I'm so grateful I'm not the one at fault for this communication breakdown.

9:09 AM

Blogger Bud said...

I'm really proud of you, Andy. You have to know that. Missing here is how you managed to even perform with all that shit on your back. You're the MAN, man! I carry two of everything these days and still manage to forget something once in a while. Drives me nuts. Drives Cathy even nutser as she usually gets a frantic call asking her to bring me a battery or something.

5:06 PM

Blogger Andy Land said...

Thanks, Bud. I hadn't thought about that at all. I was just grateful it wasn't a full stage show (45 minutes) as I'd have DIED and had nothing to perform with.

I've only made a few mistakes like this in 21 years, but they never feel "good".

The agent that booked me says I did everything right and my rep is fine. So I'll just nurse my back and hope for better days.

8:18 PM

Blogger Glenn Bishop "Bish The Magish" said...

Thanks for this great read Andy, it is funny today that many think that show business is easy.

It takes a lot of skill, and a lot of physical work to do a high energy act like you do.

Plus hearing all that negative stuff before a show can really bring an entertainer down, just before you have to go out there and be the smiling, fun entertainer.

Thanks for talking about how show business really is at some gigs.

7:24 AM

Blogger sue said...

you are amazing... oh, well, that's nothing new. to take basically nothing and be able to perform! I'm really in awe here... me? I couldn't even get up ON the stage, let alone DO something. What a man!

8:01 AM


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