Sunday, January 30, 2011
I stuttered as a kid.
I was teased daily, tormented regularly and would freeze-up at the thought of having to speak in class. I'd sit there, sweating until my turn came and then, more often than not, I'd come-up with an excuse to avoid the t-t-t-terrible scene.
When I was five or so, my older sister worked with me in a brilliant way: she had me jump rope with her, skipping or just twirling as I said each word. The rhythm allowed my words to flow. Later, I found that I could sing without stuttering.
The kids in my school would roar with laughter whenever I tried to speak in class, making me feel stupid. Looking back at those little bastards I realize it wasn't their fault. I was different and different is funny... I guess.
After my sister died, I turned to writing. It wasn't easy, just easier.
When I was 10, I entered my school's talent show. The Glendale California school gym was packed and, to me, it was as if all the kids and parents turned out to laugh at me. I performed a song with a special lyric I'd written.
Comic-singer Allan Sherman had the hit 'Camp Granada' (Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah) and for some weird reason, I thought I had the lyric chops to re-write the novelty tune and then stand before a thousand people and sing it. It wasn't exactly Wembley Stadium, but to a young boy, it felt as if the entire world was sitting out there in the dark.
My mom had done a nice job ironing blue 'Camp Granada' letters onto my yellow sweatshirt. I even had a whistle around my neck and, I think, a cap.
I'll always remember my opening line: "Hello Faddah...Hello Muddah. I'm just hoping...I don't studda."
It got a huge laugh. I'll never forget the laughter punctuating the whole song. I'm still not sure if my lyrics were all that funny. Maybe they were just brave. I do know that I felt really good, even better after I threw-up backstage.
I grew- up and almost outgrew the impediment, going on to write and host a radio show heard in 55 cities for several seasons. I appeared on national television, twice a successful contestant on 'Name That Tune.' ($100,000 cash is nothing to stutter at, man). Today, I am often interviewed on radio; I rely on my wits-and smooth voice-to fool the listeners. It isn't easy, just easier.
I'm cheering for 'The King's Speech' to win the Academy Award. I really, really, really am.
Thursday, January 20, 2011
Friday, January 14, 2011
I am amazed at the speed in which we now share words, how we communicate and become an instant community. Facebook connects the world. MySpace launches bands, YouTube allows fans to follow their idols and StageIt lets artists perform 'live' and up -close.
Maybe I'm amazed at our new speed, but I'm really blown-away at the immediate power of the words we share. Now I'm a guy who is never at a loss for words and works hard every day to improve my writing skills but I still am taken back by the magical power words possess.
Think about it for a second. We arrange words, send them off and-poof-the reader is informed, moved, changed forever.
Yesterday I sent what could have come off as a rather random email to a talented actor, an impossibly handsome, incredibly talented guy who you know well. He's the soap opera hunk, that special guest on teen dramas, the scene stealer in many TV movies. Yup, you know the actor very well but I've never met the guy. His performance as a young American rockstar moves me to tears every time I see it and I've seen it a lot. I like him that much; he lets you in. This fine actor brings instant likability to every role, and that's a real gift.
Why did I email him? Well, I did it to say, "Thanks," for the pleasure he's given me. I know, weird, right? Maybe a little creepy? But what did I risk by sincerely putting my feelings into words? I mean, so maybe he doesn't get what I wrote, or never reads it, so what? I did my best to assemble some words that expressed what I was feeling, what he made me feel and after hitting 'Send' I felt good about it.
Now I really felt great when, in a flash, I received a reply. Turns out that this brilliant actor is a sensitive artist and a really great guy. He said that he was moved by my words. I thanked him and in return, he thanked me. Wow, right?
If you want to experience real magic in your life, you have the power to cast a spell, right now. You see that hot chick with the beautiful hair? Tell her. No, really, say the words. Pass her a note letting her know your feelings. Your life will change forever. That guy you see at the gym? The one who you thought was so cool for being nice the other day? Take out the ear buds, bud, and tell him. You may well make a friend forever.
I've worked with many of the top magicians working today and I've written many of the words they say on stage. Words are powerful and, if you are sincere, words can be magicial.
I can't possibly describe how much I apprecaited his email, how that accomplished young actor's reply made me feel but I do know that our exchange is an example of the magic contained in our words. Let's maybe think about what we say to one another, how we talk about politics, sports and everything else.
I use words for a living, I am aware of their power. I know that words can hurt but also can help heal. Words are magic. Yesterday my words cast a spell and then, in return, I fell under the spell of another. I am forever changed by the exchange.
There's a beautiful scene, late in the film 'The Beach Boys: An American Family,' where DENNIS WILSON sings, 'Forever.' The lyrics are suffused with love:
"If every word I said
Could make you laugh
I'd talk forever."
I find that the more I share my words, the more I receive in return.
Thanks for that.
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
I was new to Facebook and wasn't sure how it worked, who you friended and then what you did after accepting. It was two years ago that I sent my first Facebook message to one of my few "friends," ADAM ROBITEL.
I was thumbing my BlackBerry, killing time at McCarran, waiting for a plane that would take me to Los Angeles and a late night meeting with a young producer who wanted to help develop a treatment I'd written into a completed script. The guy liked my writing and believed in me enough to send for me. Me, on the other hand, I wasn't so sure.
Out of the blue I tapped-out some questions-basic stuff about the business, really, topped off with a "We've never met but have mutual friends" opener and sent the message via Facebook to ADAM ROBITEL. Now I'd spent several late nights on the road in hotels, often catching the same funny/weirdly sexy/totally likeable scenes from 2001 Maniacs. The guy in love with the goat is a hicked-up Adam. In real life, the talented actor is a fitness freak and technical geek. Watching Adam in action makes you want to take up Capoeira and his behind-the-camera skills are even more amazing. His company Robitel Media Works does it all, from pre-to-post, developing ideas, writing, producing, directing, hell, everything. His music videos, movie trailers and short films are all, like the man himself, sensational. ADAM ROBITEL is a good guy.
The wait at the airport continued. I ordered another, let's say tea, and by the time I took my second sip my ChuckBerry flashed a return message from Adam. He'd answered all my questions, offered real advice and sincere good wishes. Wow.
While I've never lacked confidence, I walked into my meeting really self-assured, thanks to the generousity of ADAM ROBITEL. Sure, we have mutual friends. One of my oldest friends is one of the best actors alive today, a Real Genius, you might say, and Adam is flying high with, among others, real Hollywood supermen, but on that night, Adam took time out for me, a guy he'd never met.
The deal was done, the initial check arrived-and cleared! I was in business. I sent Adam a note, hoping to thank him in person, buy him a whatever, whenever, but Adam was on location, busy making a new film.
I'm in LA all the time but-and this is true-there isn't a Hollywood trip where I don't stop and give thanks to people like ADAM ROBITEL for being helpful. That's the guy you want in your life, the kind of guy I am trying to be.
If we can't be helpful, then what in the hell are we doing here?
This commentary was sparked by a really great message I just received from the skillful SERGIO VELLATTI. You know Sergio from his ring-a-ding-dinging YouTube videos, the Sinatra-sound-alike postings from a sincere (and seriously talented) singer and soon-to-be nightclub performer. Sergio thanked me for helping him which reminded me of so many people who have helped me along the way.
How do you pay it back? By helping others. That's the only way, man. I think it says it in the Bible or maybe I saw it in a movie or heard it in a song. No matter, it's true. It works. Do it. I did. I do.
Monday, January 10, 2011
I love specialty acts. To see a performer present what they've dedicated their lives to perfecting is exciting and awe inspiring.
I was backstage visiting old friends at Jubilee the other night when the conversation turned to crossbow acts. I told them that I keep hearing great things about a guy down in Branson MO. "William, tell," they said, so I did:
Ben has a Facebook page, loads of young female fans (because he's straight as an arrow!) and is really something special.
Thursday, January 6, 2011
I love Opportunity Village. I love the work they do, the employment they provide, and the people who work there. With all of my heart, I love OV.
Opportunity Village is a not-for-profit organization that serves people in our community with intellectual disabilities, to enhance their lives and the lives of the families who love them. Opportunity Village is dedicated to helping people with severe intellectual and related disabilities become the very best they can be. Through vocational training, community employment, day services, advocacy, arts and social recreation, people with severe disabilities are able to find new friends, realize future career paths, seek independence and community integration and unleash creative passions.
I'm lucky. I am. I've had the honor of helping out the good people at Opportunity Village over the years, but no where near as much as I'd like. I have taken friends, talented celebrities and business associates over to the campus and I'll tell you straight up: I've never not choked-up and even the toughest of my friends leave with creepers running down their faces. Tears of heaven on Earth, really.
If you're interested in seeing some beautiful art, painted by some real beautiful people, visit their art studio. You'll never look at the world the same again, I promise.
The self-esteem and dignity that Opportunity Village provides some of our disabled friends and neighbors is awesome and amazing. There are a few parts of the facility that are tough to visit, but to see the generous and compasionate care provided to the severley disabled breaks and then heals your heart.
The one quality that makes us human is compassion. That's it. Compassion. When you feel compassion, you are connecting with the world.
Compassion. It means 'shared suffering.' Take a moment and look into Opportunity Village.
Please visit Opportunity Village. Please help them.
*If you're reading this on Facebook, please visit OV's FACEBOOK PAGE. Please.
Monday, January 3, 2011
It's not easy being original. It is simple, once you remember how, but really, with all of the distractions, all of the TV, radio and internet voices echoing in your head, it's tempting to just let your life play out on playback.
The House of H2o has been keeping an eye on pop culture, allowing people like me to write in the first person, to tell YOU what I really think, dropping names along the way. Looking back, I'm rather proud that most of my contributions have been positive and encouraging, sometimes gushing but always sincere.
A while back we pointed out a funny young close-up magician doing things in his own way. Some of the material was old but on the fresh faced JUSTIN KREDIBLE, it gleams. We LOVE what the incredible JUSTIN WILLMAN is doing, on the road, on campus and now, in the center of it all, hosting his own TV show on Hub World.
When we got word of a new website: StageIt.com using existing technology in a hip new way, we couldn't wait to sing the praises of the site's creator: EVAN LOWENSTEIN. Evan spent a decade on the road, thrilling fans of EVAN & JARON, the band he fronts with his twin brother, Jaron, before settling down in LA. But Evan didn't settle in. No sir. He came-up with a way to let musicians perform for a select number of their fans and now, StageIt members get a backstage seat for once-in-a-lifetime shows.
We bragged about 'The King of Diamonds: The Magicial Life of Darin Diamond,' not so much because it's a great book, but rather because it is the first of three Las Vegas-themed novels coming out at a time when the way we read is changing.
H20 rarely misses a chance to share highlights from the career of JASON MRAZ. He knows what we love about him and now, more people do too.
THE MAKEPEACE BROTHERS blend their authentic voices into a brand new sound and a happy message the world needs now, more than ever. These cool guys allowed their fans to contribute to the completion of their new CD, bringing a whole new meaning to the term sharing music. We were blown-away when we discovered that the cool as shit actor JOSH HENDERSON has plenty of swagger in the recording studio. His original pop tunes are hip and Hollywood yet the boy's kept his feet firmly planted in Oklahoma. Josh is real for reals. His songs are a CLICK away.
Young guys like KADEN and also DEREK JAMESON are finding their voices and we can't hardly wait to brag about each of them as the year rolls in.
During a long lunch with legendary Las Vegas headliner SHECKY GREENE, I heard great stories about LENNY BRUCE, GEORGE CARLIN and of course, my friend Shecky and when he asked me what I thought of the new guys I had one name: NICK THUNE. I call many funnymen my friends, great guys including TOM DREESEN, LOUIE ANDERSON, MAX ALEXANDER, PETE BARBUTTI, JOHNNY DARK, FIELDING WEST, DAVID BRENNER and so many more so when Shecky asked why I was so upbeat, I was able to laugh. You can't help but laugh, thanks to NICK THUNE. Thanks, Nick.
Among the sea of shiny shirts and furtive stares there are a few younger, original magicians who have risen to the top. JASON LATIMER is the very best at what he does, and what he does is amazing. Jason has the patent on high-tech likability and we love that. R.J. CANTU is carving-out a special spot for himself, turning up at hot Hollywood clubs and then really turning up the heat. R.J. is burned to the bone by the fire of his heated ambition.
Will. All it takes is Will. Above all, WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE said in Act I Scene iii of Hamlet: "To thine own self be true."
I love that about you!
Let's make 2011 original.
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