Thursday has me working a gig with the act i cannot talk about. OK, I CAN talk about it now, but I am choosing not to mention it until i am officially placed into the promo materials, the website, and so on.
Anyway, what makes this gig so important is that it will represent the first time since we started working together that we will have high-quality video rolling. In fact, a three camera shoot will be taking place and that is way cool.
Without the good video (all we have thus far is camcorder footage...not good enough for where we want to take the act) we cannot update the promo. We also cannot fully emphasize to the buyers, the agents, and the destination management companies that we have a NEW and considerably funnier and more versatile act than the previous incarnation (the version that worked steadily for 7 years without being funnier and more versatile).
SO...I really need to be on top of my game and I really need the audience to be dying from hysterical, uncontrollable laughter.
We also have a second chance at some HQ video in February. Truthfully I am hoping we'll just use this first video to get SOMETHING out there and then re-edit after the next gig. It is already the end of January and waiting until the end of February will eat up some VALUABLE marketing opportunities.
Once we have the good video, we have the updated promo, and we then have the tools to get us the TV spots, the corporate gigs, and all the gigs that are fit to print...or play...or whatever.
Had I known there would be video rolling I'd have made sure the lighting was better for video. As it happened I made it better for a juggler (no bright lights in the eyes.) Ah well, it was a fun show and a good performance.
As usual there's was no microphone over the audience so you can't quite hear the actual laughter and applause. Direct feeds are never the best for this sort of thing, but trust me...a good time was had by all. :)
After looking at all the fun I can say that there was a relatively small amount of crap. As you know, some years have been FILLED with crap and bad luck. 2008 seemed to be relatively crap-free on my end, all things considered.
Yes, there were some bad things, some inconvenient things, and a few panic-inducing things as well. That being said, I cannot recall too many of them which leads me to believe that they were not worth mentioning or that the rest of the year was pretty good. I'd remember more crap, right?
So at the risk of bringing on a shit-storm for 2009 I can honestly say that 2008 was a pretty good year on a personal level. I am hopeful for more gigs. I managed to sock away a LITTLE bit of cash (not enough to buy a house, but not so little I'll be kicked out of one). I made new friends and business contacts. I experienced a lot of local desert life. I stayed relatively healthy. I paid bills. I enjoyed my first full year in Las Vegas quite a lot.
Do I want bigger and better in 2009? Yes indeed. Would I be happy with another year like 2008? I believe the answer would have to be YES.
As you know, April and I are very much into animals. Whether it is at a zoo, scratching up our furniture, or out in the wild, we try to see critters as much as possible.
I was warned about how little wildlife there was out here when we moved. I think that is a big ole lie. You just have to appreciate the fact that there are different types of animals out here and you have to know where to look. Every animal on the planet can't make it out here in the desert ya know.
Since we often head out to Red Rock Canyon I may as well start off with the Wild Burro. This is a great example of an animal that is suited to our landscape, but doesn't get much attention from folks who believe there's nothing to see out here. The fact that these burro are wild and NOT in a zoo makes it all the better. Getting the chance to see them is always a treat.
It would appear that the burro were also happy to see us.
On our first visit to Red Rock (2007) we saw our first Big Horn Sheep. This year, thanks to my job as a tour guide, I learned of a spot in Boulder City where most anytime I wanted I could see 60-100 of the darned things.
There is a city park near the mountains where the Big Horn love to come and hang out. Quite literally they come down from the hills and hang out in the park. It is not uncommon to see kids playing on the playground equipment and just a few feet away will be several of these majestic wild animals. Very cool!
They're only around in big numbers during the warmer months and they head back up the mountains when the temperature drops. I finally had a chance to bring April late in the summer and that was a big thrill for both of us.
On our trip to Bryce Canyon we saw a Uinta Ground Squirrel, a cute little bugger common to Utah specifically. Very adorable. We'd hoped to see some Prairie Dogs that are found at Bryce but they were not around. However, what WAS around was something that is supposed to be a bit rare in the section of Bryce where we were.
BEHOLD! The Pronghorn Antelope!
Yeah, baby! That's the stuff! We'd heard they could be seen "occasionally" there, depending upon a variety of conditions. We figured we'd have no hope of catching something like this. Then we nearly hit one with our car. Soon after that we saw a couple more...and then about 20 more! We had a good day for spotting the critters.
Almost everywhere we went over the year brought us some sort of lizard. We really enjoyed stumbling upon the Southern Desert Horned Lizard though. how could you not enjoy finding this cute guy, right?
Our own little zoo here in Las Vegas provided some great fun. Sure we could have seen the new Komodo Dragon at the Mandalay Bay Shark Reef or the baby Dolphins & baby White Tigers at the Mirage. We love our little zoo and are members there, dammit! We take pride in our local efforts to make the town more fun!
At our zoo, which is the only place in North America you can see a Barbary Ape, we were treated to something we'd never seen before, the Fossa. Fossa are critters that must have been the inspiration for the "Jeep" character in the Popeye cartoons. Very crazy looking, bouncy cat-like things. Hard to describe and harder to photograph sometimes. Our zoo has two of these buggers from the San Diego Zoo and they are awesome. However they are not quite as awesome as...
These guys are amazing and thanks to a special little tour given to us by a gal at the zoo, we got about as close to them as you could without having Fossa all up in ya'! We got to see them long before they were "officially" on display at the zoo and we couldn't be happier about that.
The zoo has recently gotten a Siberian Lynx and the first Bornean Binturong in Nevada. It is a great little zoo, even though it is not as "pretty" or "fancy" as some snobby locals would like.
Speaking of zoos there was a great nature preserve/desert garden/zoo-kinda place in Palm Desert, right next door to Palm Springs, CA.
The Living Desert Zoo & Gardens was a wonderful way to finish off our trip to Palm Springs. I hope to go back there as there are some great trails following the scenic canyon that we didn't get to see.
There were loads of beautiful animals and plants to walk through and see.
Aside from many a desert creature there were cactus gardens, a butterfly exhibit, and all sorts of beautiful things to photograph.
April also snapped a damn near perfect photo of a Hummingbird. Hard enough to photograph when they're flying. Try to get those bastards to stand still for a spell!
So you can see we had a most successful year with regard to our love for nature and the critters that inhabit it. All told though, we have more than enough animal love around this house. Of course I am speaking of Phil. Phil is all the animal we need. After all...
This was something of an odd year for me regarding watching other people's shows and concerts. Now that I live out here, where live entertainment is EVERYWHERE, I seemed to have watched way more movies than live shows.
That being said I did see some great ones, most of which were more of the concert variety than anything else.
I watched Bonnie Tyler perform her hits at the Cannery Casino and had a BLAST! I am always standing at the ready to admit to a major guilty pleasure when it comes to "Total Eclipse of the Heart". So why the hell not go see a great show for a good price, right?
I finally got to go see "V The Ultimate Variety Show" at the Planet Hollywood. Mike got us some tickets just before the new year and I was very pleased. The show is held on the same stage where I filmed my commercial, but that wasn't what I enjoyed most about the experience. Watching both as an audience member and as an entertainer I was very pleased to come to the conclusion that I was not at all "worse" than any of the acts on stage. I found myself knowing with confidence that I could just as easily be one of the performers in a successful Vegas revue as anyone else on that stage. Sure there were "better" acts. Looking objectively and always being aware of my own faults, I know I was as good as many of the folks I saw that night.
Of course The Smothers Brothers were hysterical. Like I had to tell you that.
We also took a trip to see the Kids in the Hall at the Las Vegas Comedy Festival. This was their first time ever to play Vegas. I hear they're hoping to get a regular gig out here. You can bet that I've got people working on snagging a spot as the opening act or as the fill-in act for their off nights. ;)
Perhaps the most notable show to me would be one I saw back in October at a place called the Sand Dollar Blues Club.
Before I go on about the show let me just say that the Sand Dollar is a most excellent blues room. Very reminiscent of some of my favorite haunts back in Chicago. I cannot speak for the bands they feature there every day, but I do know that on Wednesday nights, life can't get much better than spending an evening with the Ruffnecks.
Spend a little time at the MySpace page for the Ruffnecks and you'll immediately see why this is THE local band for me. Great music, played a bit too loud, in a kick-ass blues room. I hadn't had that much fun listening to a local band here since stumbling upon the Area 51 Experience at the Sahara earlier in 2008. While the Experience was great for me because they played tons of my favorite rock songs (many of which featured talk-box guitars - Joe Walsh anyone?), the Ruffnecks were great because of the hard-edged blues, the choice of songs, and the way they made me wanna drink and kick some ass. You can see and hear a bit of the Ruffnecks by watching my Instant iPod Commercial.
The Ruffnecks, while always the regular Wednesday night band at the Sand Dollar, were not THE band I went to see that night. no, I went to see the historic reunion of Jack Ely & The Courtmen.
You may recall, Jack Ely was the original singer for The Kingsmen, and is THE voice on the most famous recording of "Louie Louie". The Courtmen was the band Jack formed and toured with after leaving the Kingsmen. he had not performed with The Courtmen in some time and I had certainly not been anywhere where he was playing anytime in the last many years. I jumped at the chance to see him perform and hoped for a chance to shake his hand.
Not only was I able to hear and witness an historic show, but I met Jack Ely and other band members, got a few photos, and had a few of my 45's signed. I even shared a dance with Paula, the widow of "Louie Louie" scribe, Richard Berry. The night was filled with many great moments, tons of fantastic music, and loads of fun. More often than not I found myself saying, "I'm honored to meet you...honored to get the chance to...blah blah, honored blah."
I've posted a few videos from that show on YouTube and will re post them here for your enjoyment.
Jack Ely & The Courtmen's 1st "Louie Louie"
"Louie, Go Home"
"Louie Louie Part Two"
As you can probably tell, 2008 was an entertaining year for me. Whether it was me on stage or not, entertainment was a happening!
Thanks to a few gigs, my day job, and my friend and partner, Mike, I managed to meet some rather interesting people in 2008. Some of the meetings were all too brief, but worth mentioning.
At the magic shop I was able to meet boxing phenom, Ricky Hatton, in town training for one of his upcoming bouts. Being something of a boxing fan it was very cool to be able to shake his hand.
I also saw film beauty and wicked poker player, Jennifer Tilley, but we didn't get to speak. I'd have surely told you about that if I had. She's always been only of my faves.
A true treat for me, both as a comedian and as a fan was meeting Tommy Smothers back stage at the Sun Coast Casino. He was a very cool guy and very friendly. Dick was there too, but already back in the dressing room ready to head out of town at the time. No big deal, just heading back stage and not getting kicked out or hauled off by security was very cool. Thanks to Mike for arranging the tickets to the show and the meeting.
I was able to meet Dan Akroyd at a liquor store where he was signing bottles of his new, Crystal Head Vodka. I haven't tried the stuff yet ($49.00 a bottle - OUCH!) but I did get both the box and the VERY cool skull-shaped bottle signed by Elwood Blues himself. Had I a camera at the time I'm sure I'd have gotten a picture. The Monster Circus was big fun for me. First off, it was something of a last-minute gig so the money was appreciated. Next, it was at the fabulous showroon of the Las Vegas Hilton. Currently the home to Barry Manilow (with photos EVERYWHERE to prove it), it was where Elvis played more than 700 legendary shows. What a room! Third, it was where I was surprised to find out about the lineup for the show.
The thing had been described to me as "a demented circus". In reality it was a hard rock musical concert accented with circus acts all dolled up in stripper outfits. NICE! The rock band would consist of an all-star roster of members from famous metal acts.
Among the folks I met that evening...(Click on the links to learn more about these awesome musicians)
Not only was the show excellent, but I was treated like one of the big names by the producer. I was afforded all of the same access, dressing rooms, food and fun as everyone else and that is always a treat. I was just there to help warm up the crowd as they arrived and waited for the show, but I felt like one of the big guns. Here's hoping this becomes a regular show in town. I may get some regular work AND finally be able to score some comps to a cool show on my own. ;)
Aside from a few photos with the band (which I hope to share with you some day soon) I have a most excellent signed poster from the event, which will hang on my wall for years to come.
Since so many of these guys were in bands I've listened to 0ver the years, and since I had so many friends who'd have killed to be at the event (much less meet these guys) I found myself in a rare instance where I actually was as cool as I felt at that moment. Rare indeed!
At that show I also met a man known as "Rockin'" Reggie Vinson. He just looked like someone I've seen a millions times before. As it happened I was right. Reggie has been a professional musician for 40+ years. He's played with EVERYONE at one time or another, including the likes of John Lennon & Alice Cooper. He and his lovely wife, Katherine, were both very kind people and I was honored to have met them all.
There's one more VERY noteworthy musician I met this past year, but he'll get special mention in the next post! A great year for meeting new people, even if only for a few moments.
I was fortunate enough to visit many beautiful places in 2008. As an example, April and I would frequently head over to Red Rock Canyon for a little sightseeing and that is always a treat. My job as a tour guide for Big Horn Tours allowed me to get a more intimate view of the west rim of the Grand Canyon, though I never once had a camera with me. I also spent a lot of time in Boulder City to see the Hoover Dam, as well as many a Big Horn Mountain Sheep! This post will deal with some of the special trips taken by April and me, starting with mybirthday trip to what stands (for now) as the most beautiful place I have ever seen, Bryce Canyon.Without a doubt, this place is amazing. The whole area is breathtaking. We started out with a visit to nearby Kodachrome Basin and were blown away with the beauty of the place. Little did we know (well, I did since I did a report on Bryce Canyon in the 5th grade) that there was even more to be found.
Words cannot describe everything we saw, and we only saw a tiny portion of the place. A return trip is in the works for 2009! After Bryce we made a brief stop to Red Canyon where the beauty seemed to never end. We even found a rock formation that resembled Homer Simpson. Not bad!
All of it - Kodachrome, Red Canyon, Bryce, was reasonably priced (free in some cases) and worth ANY penny spent on the experience. My hard drive is near capacity with all the precious photos.
Later in the year, sort of as an anniversary trip, April and I spent a couple of days in Palm Springs, Ca. We absolutely loved the 50's & 60's feel of Palm Springs, Palm Desert, and the whole area. Everything from the windmill farms leading up to our destination to the gorgeous landscape at Palm Desert Canyon exceeded all expectations.
We stayed at a very swanky resort nearby that featured 8 pools, all of which were fed by the natural hot springs underneath the Earth. Open 24 hours and never any cooler than 85-103 degrees, the relaxing soaks in every damn one of those pools made for a most relaxing trip.
As it happened there is an art festival that goes on every Thursday in Palm Springs and that made for an even better time. MMMmmm...Serendipitous festival!
The last place I'll tell you about was a more local destination, the Valley of Fire.
GODDAMN that's some mighty fine lookin' nature there. Amazing colors, unreal rock formations, giant canyons, and MANY a petroglyph to astound and amaze. This is only about an hour away from us and we can't wait to go back.
All told, we had a lot of fun enjoying the world around us in 2008. Sure, we got to go to other places together, but I doubt you are all that interested in hearing about my attempt to be Best Man at a friend's wedding in Batesville, Indiana.
In all, 2008 was a great year for seeing beautiful things in Andy Land.
As is customary around this time of year, I feel like taking some time to reflect upon 2008. What's different about this post in comparison to other "year in review" posts? I waited until the year was completely over before even working on the thing!
This being the first full calendar year that April and I have been living in Las Vegas, I feel it deserves a bit more scrutiny than years past. We both got very complacent in the Chicago area after making it our home for so many years and i generally didn't look at my time there the same way i have looked upon every day I've lived here.
I wasn't scared out of my mind about what every day brought me in Chicago. Familiarity bred that sort of attitude I guess. Remembering how freaked out I was in general about the storm, the move, the desire to continue working as an entertainer I can see that life in Chicago was actually very good for me.
I didn't realize it at the time, but as it happened I was one of the busiest jugglers and comedians out there. All the time I spent fretting about "no work" cannot compare to time spent actually having NO WORK. Since moving out here I told myself that if I can get at least ONE gig a month for the first couple of years I'd save hope that I can get the full-time business back. ONE GIG! There were not many months in Chicago where I didn't have several gigs a month. Sometimes they showed up all too last minute for my tastes, but they were there. I've managed to get that one gig out here and in some months, as many as 4 or 5, so I cannot help but be hopeful for better things.
Among the noteworthy gigs I booked this year were...
The political TV Commercial for FDAConcerns.com.
Had that commercial opportunity not come along I wouldn't have been able to pay bills that month nor would I have ever been in...
The New York Times! (And Advertising Age, The Wilson Times, The News & Observer, and numerous blogs)
I also booked the preview showing of the Monster Circus. That is where I met Dee Snider of Twisted Sister fame among many others. I have not blogged in full about this show as I've been waiting for a few photos to arrive from that event. You can read about it at Bruce Kulick's blog though.
I have begun work on that super-secret project that I cannot quite talk about yet. Technically I can talk about it since the guy I'm replacing now knows about my existence and my partner has begun telling agents about the new partnership. However, until the video, photos, and new website are up I shouldn't say much about it right now.
All that being said, nothing prohibits me from linking to a website and letting you know I may be taking on the role of one of the two people in this act [COUGH! COUGH! -Spike- COUGH!]. It is already a much funnier and more edgy act than in the video and that makes me very excited.
I also scored some bookings from new clients and agencies that I have been marketing to religiously since arriving here. I have been actively advertising and getting my name "out there". I was featured in an ad for Trade Show Lifestyles Magazine and placed ads in the Yellow Pages and other publications. If all goes well, work as a solo performer and as part of a team should be coming in in 2009 and that makes me very happy indeed.