Monday, April 29, 2013

...why ya'll gotta be all shady n' shit?



The first “whassup!” commercial aired on december 20th, 1999, during Monday Night Football.  

(funny thing is; I had no idea the commercials had started airing, until the phone started ringing that night…and everybody that called said the same thing; “dude, there’s this guy in this commercial who looks just like you!” …no one thought it was actually me …probably because I did’nt tell anyone, outside of a handful of close friends, that I had shot the commercials …I felt like this: the fewer who knew, the fewer I would have to explain to if it all went wrong, know what I mean?)



By january, we were already becoming famous.   And I knew there was an opportunity to parlay this into more.   So, I wanted to get an agent.   Since I did’nt know anyone, I turned to jodi collins, the casting agent who cast the commercials.   She was so kind and helpful.   She asked; “just you, or do all the guys want agents too?”   paul did’nt seem very interested, but fred was.   Jodi set us up with 4 or 5 NYC talent agents, she called and set up appointments, put in the good word, n’ everything.   Me and fred went up to NYC on a Monday and went over to jodi’s office where she gave us the info and some pointers…we did’nt even have headshots or anything, so, she took a couple of photos she had from our audition, and sent us to a nearby kinko’s so we could make copies.   She really went the extra mile for us.   We hit all 5 agencies that day, I think all of them would’ve signed us (we were that hot at the time).   Eventually I chose to go with CED (now; CESD)…I really just liked their vibe, particularly carrie morgan, the woman in my interview who seemed to do most of the talking.   Now, at the time, I had no clue they were the number 1 commercial agency in the business, or that carrie was their top agent.   I just liked them.   I was so na├»ve, I actually called them up the next day and said; “ok, I’ll sign with you guys” …not even realizing I was supposed to wait for them to call me.   carrie just chuckled, and agreed.


              ...i wish she had never retired, the business was'nt the same without her...

The next thing I had to do was join SAG (screen actors guild – the union for actors).   When you work as an actor, if you build up a certain amount of credits, you’re eligible to join SAG, and, if you keep getting work, you have to join…unless you want to relegate your career to non-union work. (ie; low-budget, low pay, crappy, “independent” stuff)   They’re like the mafia in that way….”pay us a cut, or you’ll never work in this town again.”



As luck would have it, in april 2000 there was a major SAG and WGA strike (writer’s guild of america – the union for writers).   So all worked stopped.   No new TV shows, movies, or commercials could be shot.   So, 4 mos. into our career, we were stalled.   Thank god we were so famous and had a full schedule of personal appearances around the country, otherwise we would’nt have been able to work or make money until the strike ended -- which ended up being in september -- 6 mos later.

It was during this time that we got a call from walter… the budweiser exec handling our campaign.   He told us that they wanted to offer us a deal… they wanted us to go to canada, and shoot a new commercial, and they would pay us $100,000 each.   For whatever reason, I immediately smelled a rat.   I called carrie, I told her what was up.   Her first question was; “will this new commercial be used only in canada, or do they intend to show it here in the states?”   I asked why, and she told me; SAG laws do not apply in other countries, so we could go to other countries and shoot new stuff, BUT, only if those commercials only aired in foreign markets, not america.   She said SAG was VERY strict about enforcing the rules…she said they have people who do nothing but watch “hi-profile celebrities” -- like us -- and make sure they don’t try to sneak off and do work under the radar (ie; try and claim “we shot this before the strike”).   She told us the story about shaquile o’neal; how he had just gotten in a lot of hot water for shooting a TV spot during the strike, and they threatened to blackball him from the union, which means he would’nt be allowed to make any more TV commercials or movies or anything…ever.   Instead, he agreed to pay a huge fine (several hundred thousand, I believe).   And we were new, we did’nt have shaq’s clout…if we got blackballed, they would'nt have cut us that same slack. (hell, we probably would've had to use that $100k just to pay fines)
  
I forget what city we were in, but, I called a meeting with the guys.   We got together in paul’s hotel room, I told them what carrie said.   We called the front desk and had a speakerphone brought up to the room, and I called carrie.   I put her on speaker, and she explained the situation to all of us.   Now, this is how cool carrie was… the industry was on strike, there was no new work coming in, so she was’nt getting any commission, and she was’nt paul or fred’s agent, BUT, she still took the time to talk to all of us and give us career advice.   Carrie was the best.   After that call, we all agreed I would talk to walter and see what he said.

That monday I called walter.   And I asked him straight out; “if we shoot this commercial, will you guys sign something stating you will only show it in canada, or other foreign markets?”   There was a long pause.   Then he said; “dook…I can’t promise you that once they have it, they won’t air it in america.”   That’s all I needed to hear.   I told him I would not shoot the commercial.   I immediately called paul & fred and told them what he said.   They both agreed they would’nt shoot it either.   And we never did.   And, oh boy…was Anheuser-Bush ever SALTY.*   But, whatever.

You see, nobody knew how long this strike was going to be, and A-B was shitting itself because it could’nt make new ads, so they figured they’d wave this big money deal in our faces, and we’d jump at it, never reading “the fine print”…and if I had’nt talked to my agent, we never would’ve known, and we would’ve been in big trouble, and possibly ended any potential for a career in the business.   And the thing is; they had to know this...they just did’nt care...all they cared about was getting a new commercial.   Walter's response said to me; they always knew they were going to show the commercial in america, they were just gonna try and sneak it in through the back door, and not tell us.   Ok, so, let’s say we did’nt know better and took the deal… eventually, the day would come when budweiser would end the campaign, no more “whassup!”… after they dicked us over, when they did’nt have any use for us anymore, would they have taken care of us?   Nope.   So, we had to do what was in our own best interest.   Sure, an extra $100,000 in my pocket would’ve been awesome…but, it's 10 years later, that money would've been spent long ago, at least now i can still work.   Know what i'm sayin'?

*A-B was notorious for doing this kind of thing… from day one, they wanted to control us and have exclusive access to us.   There were multiple instances of TV shows, producers, and casting people calling A-B (we did’nt have a manager yet, so people would call them to get in touch with us), but A-B would turn them down, without telling us, because they wanted us to do a week of bar appearances in some podunk city.   They only wanted us doing the TV shows they wanted us to do.   They did’nt want us to have any kind of career outside of them.   They tried to get us to sign an exclusive deal with them, but, our manager read it and strongly advised against signing it…he said; “basically, they will own you, you won’t be able to do anything except budweiser stuff.”   We eventually agreed to sign a limited deal, which allowed us a lot more freedom.   There were a couple times when they actually had meetings about me, and I got in trouble, because I chose to go host a TV show or something, rather than make appearances for them. (that’s why there are 2 or 3 commercials that only feature paul & fred, because i was “on punishment”…they really had a shit fit when i went on howard stern!!!)   When we were on oprah, backstage before the show, paul was saying how he wanted to cut his hair; and one of the bud execs “joked”; “oh no, you can’t cut that hair, we own that hair.”   None of us thought it was funny.   That’s mainly why I eventually chose to pull out and not do promotional appearances anymore…I was burned out from the constant travel, and I was tired of them trying to make us their bitch.   And they kind of had to put me back in the commercials, because too many people were asking; “uh, where’s dookie?”   Yes, I am grateful for the opportunity they gave us by casting us in their commercials, but, that did not give them the right to dictate what we did with our fame, and our lives.   Ok, well, except for that morals clause…they could dictate that stuff…
    

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Now I see how it happens…

As I write this, a new story comes out every day about Justin Bieber, Lindsay Lohan and Amanda Bynes, and how they’re acting like demented, ultra-spoiled super-brats.   And this is’nt new… celebrities acting like mega-divas is as old as the entertainment industry.   And yet, every time I hear one of these stories, I still wonder; “WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE???”   How does this happen?   How does a person just all of a sudden start acting like this… like they can do anything they want, say anything they want, and get anything they want - and what’s even more disturbing; they behave as if they’re entitled to it!!! (the out-of-control sense of entitlement is what really makes me want to choke them)

But, from my brief time as a celebrity, I started to see how it could happen.   How, if you already have an ego or a sense of entitilement, show-business can grossly over-inflate it… if you already have demanding, bossy tendencies, show-business can nurture and perpetuate those tendencies… if you already have any brattiness in you, show-business can turn you into a major dickhead.   And I could see it because; I got to experience some of those “perks” you get when you’re famous.

The first time it happened was on the set of the very first commercial.  
We were in-between takes, I was sitting on that couch waiting for the crew to set-up the lighting for the next shot, and my nose starts to close up (I have bad allergies).   I looked for my afrin, and was dismayed to discover I forgot to bring it.   I was going to try and suffer through it, but, it got really bad, and I knew it was going to affect my voice.   So, I turn to the person nearest me wearing a headset and carrying a clipboard (*I now know he was the 2nd A.D. – assistant director), and I said to him; “on the way in here, I noticed a table set up with snacks and asprin n’ stuff (*I now know it’s called the 'craft-service table') and I was wondering if maybe they had some afrin or something like it?”   Without a word, he gets on his radio and asks for craft-services and asks them if they have afrin.   Well, I gotta tell, I was impressed.   He looks back down at me and says; “sorry, they don’t have any…I can send someone to the store to get you some.”   I said; “no, no, no, I don’t want to be a bother.”   He said; “it’s not a bother, what kind do you need?”   Again, I protest; “no really, I don’t want you to go through all that trouble.”   Then he gets this annoyed look on his face, lets out a heavy sigh, and says very sternly; “Look, you need it, don’t you? Tell me what kind and I’ll send someone to the drugstore!”   At that point I surrender and tell him what I need.   Without a word, he gets on his radio and locates one of the P.A.’s (*production assistant) and instructs him to take a van and go to the nearest duane reade (*drug store) and get my afrin.   I gotta tell ya’… it felt… weird.   I have never had anyone wait on me hand-and-foot before.   And to be honest, I was’nt altogether comfortable with it.   I have always been of the mind; if I can do it myself, then I will… I hate asking anyone to go out of their way for me (I won’t even bother waitresses in restaurants if they forget something or if my meal is a little wrong).   But then, he said something to me that made sense; “if your nose is closed shut, you can’t be at your best, and we can’t allow you to leave the set because we don’t know when we’ll be ready to go again, plus you might get your wardrobe dirty, and we’re on the clock, so we can’t afford any delays, so, we have people who will do those things for you…it’s their job.”   Which kinda made it a little better.   And, of course, my mind immediately goes to the dark side; “hhmmm… well, you know, I would be MUCH happier and my performance would be GREATLY enhanced if I had a big piece of chocolate cake right now…”   He looks at me and says; "you want a piece of cake?" "NO! NO! NO! i was just kidding!", I blurt out.   With a straight face he just turns away from me and continues doing his job...he does'nt have time for my foolishness.

Then there was the time I was shooting a pilot for a new show I was hosting.   On the first day of shooting, the producers are introducing me to the crew… director, cameraman, sound guy, etc.   Then he comes to this lady - about 40, kinda butch, in cargo shorts and trail shoes – and he says; “and this is your assistant.”   Wait… what?   My what?   “your assistant, she’ll be your personal assistant during the shoot.”   Ok, now, when we were first discussing the shoot, and they were asking me what I wanted/needed, I remember agreeing to a wardrobe person, and a make-up person… I do not remember agreeing to an assistant.   And that’s definitely something I would’ve remembered... and probably turned-down.   (oh, yeah, that’s another thing... when you’re a real big shot, you’re allowed to ask for all kinds of stuff, like; what you want in your trailer/dressing room, what kind of meals you want, any special requests, etc, etc... the only request i ever make is; coca-cola - enough for the whole shoot)

                           ...in Florida for a TV shoot, got to my hotel room, opened up the mini-fridge...

So, now I feel really weird and awkward.   I think I felt some kind of misguided empathy for the woman, like, it must be humiliating… to be someone’s personal slave.    So, I set about not using her at all, for anything.   And she was really nice, it was’nt anything personal, I just thought I was doing her a favor by leaving her alone.   If I wanted water, I’d walk over and get it… she’d be right there.   If I needed a towel, I go get one… she’d be right there.   She was always right there, right behind me, asking if she could do anything for me.   There was this one time when I wanted to ask Ben something (our producer/director).   We were shooting on a high school football field, he was in the middle of the field, I was over by the bleachers.   So I trotted to the fence, hopped the fence, and began jogging toward Ben.   I don’t remember why I looked behind me, but I did, and I saw my assistant struggling to hop over the fence too, clumsily getting all caught up, then recovering and trotting toward me.   So, I stared walking back toward her, and I yelled; “Stop!”, so she stopped, panting, a little out of breath.   I asked her what the hell was wrong with her, why was she doing this.   And she said to me; “This is my job. I work as a personal assisstant. And if you don’t let me do anything, then they’re going to think they don’t need me, and I’ll be fired from this gig…so please, let me do my job.”   I felt like a piece of shit.   I thought I was sparing her humiliation and hard work, and all I was really doing was making her feel bad and look useless.   From that point on, she was doing all my fetching for me. (it still felt kinda weird, though)   

Then there was that one time when I felt like I had really crossed a line.
So, I was in either Vegas or LA, I can’t remember which, shooting an episode of this other TV show I was hosting.   Now, there’s something about me that all of my close friends know; I am one hairy muthafuka.   And yes, that includes my back.   Usually, I try to hit my back every couple weeks, just to keep it from getting to long, because, it gets SUPER itchy… and I mean distractingly, annoyingly itchy.   But, before i left for this gig, I forgot to hit my back.   And it’s getting really, really itchy.   It was about an hour before I was supposed to be on set, I call the producer and say; “Listen…I really hate to ask this, it’s kind of embarrassing, but I kinda need a weird favor.”   She says; “what do you need?”   I say; “I would never ask this, it’s kind of gross, but it’s a major pain in my ass, and it would really help if…”, she cuts me off and says; “What??? What do you need? Just ask me!”   “Do you think the make-up girl would come up here and [long pause] …shave my back?”   “Absolutely, not a problem, I’ll send her right up.”   Wow.   That was friggin easy!   About 5 min later there’s a knock on my door.   It’s the make-up girl (technically, she’s the “hair and make-up girl”).   “Hi, Hon! So you need a touch-up?”, she laughs, already got her clippers out.   She’s been the hair/make-up chick for all the episodes so I know her pretty well, and we get along great, she's pretty awesome.   I start apologizing again for making her do something so gross.   “oh please…this is nothing, I do this all the time!”, she says, then goes on to tell me about some of the REALLY gross shit she’s been asked to do (like; pop zits and dig out ingrown hairs with a needle, n’ stuff).   After she was done, she even gave me a soothing, cooling alcohol rub… oh my god.   She said it was to prevent razor burn.   I did’nt give a shit why she did it… it felt heavenly.

(I already told the story about how my limo got to breeze right through airport security at LAX back around 2001 when the military had it on complete lockdown, because the soldier looked in the back and saw it was me and waved me through… I think it’s in one of my past blogs)


...VIP status, that's how I roll...

And I’m sure these stories pale in comparison to what other, really big stars could tell.   But, that’s kind of my point... if this is the kind of stuff that happened to me, at my level, I can totally see how certain people (ie; egomaniacal dickheads) can become so spoiled and so entitled when they get to those higher levels of fame & power.   I’m not saying I condone it, or forgive it, I’m just saying I see how it happens...





Tuesday, June 12, 2012

it was like i had died and gone to "law & order" heaven...


…if you’re like me, then you’re a fan – scratch that – a SUPERfan of “law & order” …and yes; I mean all of them. (I was even getting into “law & order LA”, and now I’m haunted by by the notion that dt. jaruszalski will forever be chasing dt. winters’ killers in limbo… somebody needs to do an episode of SVU where they investigate the rash of murders of all the ‘law&order’ shows, I mean, it’s like a friggin serial killer targeted them all at the same time).

And that’s the reason why auditioning for, and shooting, “mr. 3000” was so damn surreal for me.

Chuck (the director) scheduled the auditions to begin first thing in the morning at some studio in midtown manhattan.   I was one of the first people to audition (robert pastorelli and casey affleck were the other actors there that morning… I’ve got a story about that too, but that’s for later).   After I finished, chuck told me to hang-out for a while and we’d hang-out after he was done.   So, I got some breakfast, visited my agent, did some general lolly-gagging around the city, then went back to the studio around 3pm.   The place was jam-packed, crawling with actors, folks were even standing in the hallways.   Right after I got there, my boy paul (the other ‘whassup’ guy) came bounding out of the room, I had no idea he was going to be there.   We greeted each other with our customary enthusiasm & ball-busting, then we posted up in the hallway, shootin’ the shit.   Where we were standing, we were right across from the doorway to the studio, so people had to walk right toward us as they left the room.   as we’re standing there talking, who comes walking out the room; muthafukin tamara tunie - the coroner from “SVU”…

 










  







 (and she is even finer in person than on TV)  
I guess I was in one of my more playful moods that day, so, as she walks out of the room (looking down as she put some things into her bag), I say to her; “um, excuse me…you’re just going to walk by and not speak?”   she stops in her tracks and looks up at me, but says nothing.   So I continue; “you were in my living room, just last night, and now you gonna act like you don’t even know me???”   …now here’s the freaky part.   She gets this look on her face …kinda like this:














…then she walks, very slow and deliberate, right up to me, less than a foot from my face, and she says; “really? Well…maybe you need to refresh my memory.”   So, still in character, I say to her; “oh, ok, you gonna be like that… it was you, benson, and stabler, and ya’ll were talking about the asian girl with her foot cut off…”   This big smile creeps across her face, and she says; “I was kinda hoping that’s where you were going with that!!! [laughs] …’cause, I was a little nervous for a minute, thinking; what the heck did I do last night that I don’t remember being in this man’s house!!!”   We laughed and engaged in casual banter for a minute, then as she left, she turned and said; “next time, you need to do something to make yourself a little more memorable…”   I look over at paul, and he’s just standing there, motionless, looking at me with his mouth closed…as I assumed he’d been doing the whole time, which made me chuckle.   Finally he speaks… “brooksie, do you know her?”   “nope”, I say.   He then exclaims; “DAMN NIGGA, YOU GOT SOME BALLS!!!”, and starts laughing.

Paul has shit to do, so he eventually leaves.   The room has thinned out a bit, so there are some empty chairs.   I walk in and take seat…not realizing I had sat down right next to muthafukin chris noth - det. mike logan from ‘law & order’…

















I don’t remember how it happened, but, we ended up talking.   Not about the business or anything, just regular conversation.   I remember talking about philly for a bit….he talked about a movie that he shot here, and, how much he liked the city, and how he was contemplating buying a property here, asking my opinion of certain areas and such.   He was just a cool, unpretentious, laid-back, friendly dude.  He ended up getting the role in the movie, so I got to hang-out with him some more down in new orleans. (see previous blog for that story)

Jump ahead to new orleans.   It’s either the 1st or 2nd day shooting.   I was’nt shooting so I was just hanging-out on set as they shot a scene in the locker room.   I was watching bernie (mac) do his thing and not paying attention to the rest of the actors.   But there was a part where bernie says something to one of the other characters.   I look over to see who he was talking to… it was muthafukin paul sorvino - sgt. phil cerreta from ‘law & order’…














...now, this dude was a real character.
First off, the girls in the make-up trailer all talked about what a “dirty old man” he was… how he was always flirting and making dirty comments, and trying to “rub his old man balls” up against them whenever they had to lean in close to do his make-up. (not in a sexual-harrassment kind of way, just a dirty-old-man kind of way)

He also had a bit of a diva side.   We were shooting scenes in the dugout, and paul has a bad back or knee or something, so, whenever there were parts when he did’nt have any lines and could’nt be seen on camera, he had them set up a chair in a little room right behind the dugout, and he’d go sit there… because, apparently, sitting in that room on that chair was vastly superior to sitting in the dugout on the bench.   Oh, and there was the fan.   He constantly complained about how hot he was, so, he had his own fan set up to blow on him – yes, directly on him only -  inbetween takes.   And if a PA forgot to turn his fan on as soon as chuck yelled “cut!” paul would kindly remind them. (yes, that was sarcasm)   d’ondre whitfield was playing the role of skillet






















…and at some point he made the grievous error of absent-mindedly standing in front of mr. sorvino’s fan!!!   Well, paul barked; “Hey! You! Fella! Could you move!”   Now, d’ondre is an extremely congenial guy…very friendly, always smiling, laughing, joking…but, not right now.   He got a look on his face that let you know he was kinda pissed, but, he was also keeping a lid on his anger.   He stopped for moment, composed himself, then stepped to paul, held out his hand, and said; “hello, my name is d’ondre, I’m an actor on this film, just like you.”   Paul, visibly embarrassed, shakes his hand then says; “sorry…d’ondre, would you mind stepping from in front of the fan, please?” (not really humble, just spitting it out so d’ondre would move as quickly as possible)   d’ondre says; “see, that’s all you had to do.”   And as he walks away, we can all hear him talking aloud to himself; “…I have a name, and it’s not ‘hey fella’…you’re gonna speak to me with some respect…”     I gotta hand it to d’ondre; I don’t have much confidence that, if it were me, I would’ve been able to compose such a dignified response.  

Then, there was this other time, we were in the middle of shooting a scene, cameras rolling, when all of sudden, a cell phone begins to ring.   Now, in case you don’t know; any noise – especially a phone ringing - while cameras are rolling is probably the biggest cardinal sin you can committ on any TV or movie set.   It rings once… it rings twice… the actors are trying to carry on with the scene (just in case the rings are’nt audible on their mics and the take can still be used), but the crew is now looking in the direction of the rings… it seems to be coming from paul.   On the third ring, paul suddenly realizes it’s his phone, he jumps at the realization, and starts wriggling his butt, trying to wedge it up against the wall in some vain effort to muffle the sound (ever see a dog scratching it’s butt up against a wall? Yeah, just like that).   At that, everyone begins laughing, and chuck has no choice but to yell cut.   Paul begins apologizing profusely for ruining the take, as he tries to fish his phone out of his back pocket.   Still ringing, he looks at it and says; “oh, it’s mira…let me take this, guys…”   yes, that’s right, it was his daughter, oscar winner mira sorvino… so, naturally, we had to suspend shooting so he could have a quick chat.    

Now, my personal interactions with paul were very different.  
There’s a bunch of scenes that take place in the dugout.   I’m in all of those scenes… I did’nt have lines, I was just in the background, a “featured extra” (since I played the trainer earlier in the movie, chuck threw me a bone and put me in all of the dugout scenes, which was awesome, ‘cause it put several more weeks of pay in my pocket).   And in those scenes, I was alwys right next to paul.















(the other guy is earl billings, star of those “aflac” commercials, and golf buddy of samuel l. jackson…how do I know that? He told me so.)

In a couple of those scenes, chuck gave me “a bit of business” to do (an industry term for making it look like you’re doing something instead of just standing there) …one of them was; walk up and hand paul a clipboard, pantomime a brief conversation like we’re going over something, then walk away.   For whatever reason, they had to do about 10 takes of this scene (if I remember correctly, bernie kept fuckin’ up his line).   So, I had to do the clipboard bit 10 times.   Now, inbetween takes, paul and I had already established a jokey rapport… I mean, he loves filthy humor, so of course we’d get along just fine. (and I knew he liked me when he remembered my name)   So, just to entertain myself, I started writing & drawing silly shit on the paper before I handed it to him.   I wanted to see if, and how, he would react.   This motherfucker is such a pro, he not only kept a straight face, but he started countering my silly drawings with his own…now I was the one who had to keep a straight face!   But we’d both chuckle like little kids as soon as chuck yelled cut.   So, as far as it pertained to me, paul sorvino was an alright dude.

The last couple of ‘law & order’ alumni I got to rub elbows with 
were michael rispoli...














and courtney b. vance...
















Mike has played more characters on all 3 series than I can remember.   He was in my big scene with bernie, so we got to hang out a lot.   One day while we were hanging around outside our trailers, bouncing a ball back & forth, we got into a conversation about L&O, all the roles he’s played, which was his favorite, what the crew is like, etc.   He was a very cool dude… kinda quiet & reserved, but very cool.   I don’t really have any stories about him, except…  one night we went out to eat, it was around 3am, and the only thing we could find open was a chinese joint.   There were a bunch of kids in the booth right behind me, they kept looking back at us and I could hear them whispering.   So, I started getting myself ready for the onslaught of “whassup!” yells that I knew were coming my way.   Eventually, they turned around and one of them asked; “yo, aint you that dude from the sopranos???”   Mike, modestly, said; “yeah.”   Shocked, I looked at him and said; “you were on the sopranos???”   “yeah, I was jackie, the boss, first season…I got killed”, he said.   Holy shit… I had no clue!   Plus, I felt kinda stupid.   But, because he’s such a gracious gentleman, mike felt compelled to shine some his spotlight on me… “yeah, but, don’t you know who this guy is?”   Then the kids took a closer look at me… ”oh shit! It’s the ‘whassup!’ dude!!!”   Thanks mike… thanks a lot… the ONE time I thought I got away scott free.   After that, they mobbed our booth, taking pics with their phones, calling their friends, asking us to make voicemail messages for them… until mike politely asked them to let us eat in peace.   The kids apologized and went back to their booth, obeying the word of ‘mob boss jackie’.  

As far as courtney, my only interaction with him was at the 4th of july cookout at bernie mac’s house, which I mentioned in a previous blog… but it’s a short story, so I’ll repeat it… this takes place right after chuck and I arrive at bernie’s house, and he greets us in the vestibule…

“…bernie tells us; “angela should be right behind ya’ll, so let’s wait for her then we’ll all go in.” A minute later, angela basset shows up. We’re all saying our hello’s when I notice some dude with her, carrying some bags. When I turn to see who he is, I blurt out an involuntary; “OH SHIT!!!”  Startled, he stops in his tracks and gets a nervous “WTF?” look on his face. I had no idea that angela basset was married to courtney b. vance!!! (whom you all might know as the D.A. ron carver on “law & order: criminal intent”)  I calmly apologize for my outburst and tell him what a huge fan i am.”
  
After that, he was cool… he ended up in the rec room playing a game of pool with chuck.


 I guess if you’re casting a movie in new york city it’s gonna be impossible to avoid the horde of ‘law & order’ alumni… those shows have had the NYC acting scene on lockdown for over 20 years.   And even though I realize this now, at the time, it was freaking me out (in an awesome way) being around so many of them at the same time…




Monday, April 2, 2012

Patrice O'Neal


I’m not gonna front (like a lot of people did after he passed) like me and patrice were BFF’s. But, we were friends…pretty good friends. It would be ridiculous for me to sit here and try to chronicle the entirety of my friendship with patrice. That’d be the equivalent of making your friends sit through a slideshow of your vacation photos; there’re a couple of really cool ones, but for the most part, it’s stuff that’s really only interesting to you.

But, I feel like saying something about him.

So, I’ll just tell the story of how we met.

Because I think it’s this, more than anything else, that kinda sums it all up perfectly.

It was early 2006…I remember it was’nt quite warm yet, it was still kinda brisk, so I’m guessing it was march or april. I was in new york, at an audition for a burger king commercial. (we auditioned in groups of 4…you know who auditioned with me? this guy…)

http://youtu.be/30YW3wgRvyI

When I was done and emerged from the studio back out into the waiting area, who was standing there but mr. patrice o’neal himself…in his trademark fedora and long black leahter coat, talking on the phone to his manager…loudly. (which no one ever does…actors waiting to audition are almost always quiet, keeping to themselves, memorizing their lines and whatnot, so it was SO out-of-place for this big nigga to be standing in the middle of the waiting area loudly talking on the phone) We looked at each other, and we each had instant recognition of the other. (I was a big fan of his from ‘tough crowd’ and ‘web junk’) He got a wry lil’ smile on his face and said; “what’s up, nigga”, in that quiet way people do when they’re on the phone. I chuckled and we shook hands. I was actually super flattered that he knew who I was. He hung up with his manager and asked me; “you here for the burger king commercial too? Where’s the sign in sheet? Which studio is it?”, because frankly, he just could’nt be bothered with all those formalities, he just wanted to get in & out. After I showed him where everything was, he said to me; “what’re you doin’ after this?” I told him I had nothing else going on, I was just gonna go back home. He said; “wait for me.” So I did. When he came out of the audition, he was back on the phone with his manager again…which means, her had already called the dude before he even left the studio! I distinctly remember him saying; “did they call for me specifically? Or was this just an open audition? [pause] …don’t call me for no shit like this anymore, I don’t wanna be goin’ out on regular ol’ auditions, only send me out if they call you and tell you they specifically want me!” I remember shaking my head and chuckling, and thinking to myself; “wow…the balls on this guy!”, but, at the same time, I genuinely admired the balls on this guy. He hangs up and says to me; “you hungry?” “Always” I replied. He said; “let’s go get something to eat.”

And that was that. We were friends.

No foreplay. No hanging-out-and-getting-to-know-each-other-over-time.

Bam. Friends.

We left the building and hopped into his suv which was parked right out front on the street…which amazed me…I just don’t ever think of NYC as the type of city where you can park on the street…I don’t know why. We went to this authentic brazillian steakhouse…I don’t remember the name of it, all I remember is, it was right across a plaza from the office building where roc-a-fella records headquarters is. (we ran into doug e. fresh as he was leaving the building) When we walked in, the owner greeted patrice like they were old friends…literally…not the pomp & circumstance with which they usually greet a celebrity, just the casual, genuine, friendly greeting you’d give your buddy if you ran into him on the street. As he walked us back to our table, he was telling patrice that “all the arrangements had been taken care of.” Anyone who knows patrice knows there was a time when he used to go to brazil at least twice a year. Apparently, this guy had friends back home in brazil who would hook patrice up with a villa on the beach whenever he went went down. A good chunk of our conversation over lunch was patrice trying to convince me to go to brazil with him…regaling me with tales of how “you can live like a king…A KING…for 2 weeks on $250 dollars, american!” at some point patrice asked me if I knew who robert kelly was, and told me that he was going to join us.

http://comedians.jokes.com/robert-kelly

Soon after that, robert showed up. I had never met him, but I was familiar with him too from his TV appearances. (sidenote: for some reason, it turned out to be “pick on scott day” for robert…from almost the moment he sat down, he fucked with me about every little thing; my shoes, the way I walked, things I said…the best way I can describe it is; I was the new guy and he was hazing me…I don’t think it was malicious, but it was just so non-stop, I was like “WTF???” …fat, bald little fucker…) This was my first real brazillian restaurant, so patrice had to school me on the rules & procedures. We ate and talked for close to 2 hours. When we were done, I went for my wallet, but patrice motioned for me to put it away….the bill was taken care of…it was on the house. Pretty cool. So we left the restaurant, walked back to the car, stopping at a couple stores on the way, and it was fun watching patrice and robert being “funny guys” fucking with the clerks behind the counter. Patrice dropped off robert, then asked me if I minded riding with him to go pick up his girl, who was getting off work or something. So I rode with him to pick his girl up, and, once she got in the car, it was all about her…not in a bad way, he did’nt ignore me, he still included me in the conversation, he was just being an attentive boyfriend, talking to his girl about her day. It was kinda sweet - in a patrice o’neal kind of way. (I doubt if she’d remember me even if she read this, I was just some dude in the back seat many years ago) He dropped me off at the train station, we gave each other daps, and I was on my way.

Here’s the thing.

That whole time…we never once talked about “the business.”

We just shot the shit. Like you do when you hang out with your boys. And it did’nt even hit me until later. And I think that’s what really made the biggest impression on me. Here we were, 2 guys who’s only real connection was show business, and when we met, we were just so instantly comfortable with each other, show business never even entered the conversation.

Patrice and I hung out countless times after that. And had countless conversations. Some stuff he said to me I will never forget. If you’ve ever seen his stand-up, then you know one thing about him…the brother is deep. Sure, on the surface, he just seems raunchy and outrageous, but, if you really listen, there’s a pretty impressive brain at work.

The funny thing is; when he and I first met, I had never seen his stand-up. I had only seen his work on TV shows. Later that year, around fall of 2006, HBO aired his “half hour comedy hour.” To say I was blown away would be an understatement. I immediately called him and raved; “nigga, I had no idea you were funny like THAT!!!” he immediately shot into my top 3 stand-up comedians (alongside bill burr and patton oswalt) Then there was the time when he was on “green room with paul provenza” and he absolutely owned the room!!! which was no small feat considering the other comedians on the panel were sandra bernhard, rosanne barr, and bob saget.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z4M_NAV0IU0

I left him a message after the show raving about his performance. He called me back and thanked me, but he was uncharacteristically somber. He said he actually felt kinda bad, like he was being a bully, or overbearing, or somehow disrespectful to the other comedians. I assured him that was in no way the case, and totally did not come across like that on TV. He said it made him feel better to hear that. But that’s just how powerful a comedic mind he has…it does’nt matter who else is in the room, he’s going to speak his mind and when he does, he’s going to dominate.

There was a period of time when I did’nt hear from patrice. He did’nt answer my calls or texts. So I left it alone, figuring that maybe our friendship had simply run it’s course. It happens. But then one night I got a message from my buddy mike saying; “saw patrice tonight, he wants you to call him, here’s his new number.” After that, on a whim, I checked my old yahoo email, and sho’nuff, there were emails from patrice via my old myspace page (both of which I had’nt used in years).

He invited me to come to the taping of “elephant in the room”, but for some reason, I could’nt make it. Now I really, really wish I had.

Patrice O’neal is one of the most intellectual, philosophical, raunchy, raw, and gut-bustingly hilarious people I have ever known. And it makes me happy to be able to say; “yeah, that’s my boy.”

And it still makes me really sad whenever I think about the fact that he’s not here anymore…


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

the "velvet mafia" (as kathy griffin would say; "allegedly")


Not to brag, but, it became apparent pretty quickly that I had kinda become the "break out star” of the commercials. (paul used to say; “we like it when we go places without you, we can kinda be incognito, but as soon as people see your big lightblub head…”) And so, my manager, mark, was fielding calls from TV & movie people who were making offers. For example...
A) one of the producers on "black hawk down" wanted me for the role of "kurth" (but he got overruled, because they wanted "a more seasoned actor" -- like gabriel casseus)
B) mike epps had a sitcom deal with UPN, and they wrote me into the show as mike's best friend (they even called the character "scott" in the script)

C) after the first season, ABC only wanted one host for the "best commercials" show, so they dropped paul & fred and offered the gig to me.

D) and, in one of the cooler moments of my career; I was offered the role of DL’s brother on “the hughleys” …it’s a pretty cool story …earlier that day, we had done a table-read at UPN for a sitcom we were shopping …later that night around 9, I got a call in my hotel room, it was judith weiner, VP of casting at UPN …she told me that even though they were going to pass on the sitcom, everybody at the meeting loved me, and she wanted to offer me a role on DL’s show, she said I’d be perfect to play DL’s wild & crazy younger brother who comes to live with them …she asked me if it was something I’d be interested in doing, and before she could get the words out her mouth I was yelling “hell yes!!!” …she told me to report to the studio the next morning for a screen test, but assured me it was merely a formality, the role was mine …I hung up the phone, elated …I got up early the next morning, and my phone rang around 8am, it was judith again, she said there was a problem …you see, a couple of months earlier, me and the guys had signed a development deal with paramount TV, which basically meant they owned us for 1 year and we could’nt go off and work on any other TV shows …so, unless I could get them to let me out of my contract, UPN couldn’t hire me …I was confused “…is’nt UPN a part of paramount? can’t you talk to them?”, i asked her… “I tried, but they won’t budge…see if you can work something out, but if not, I can’t offer you the role, I’m really sorry”, she told me …I had mark talk to paramount, and their response was; if I paid them back all the money they put out for my holding deal then I could leave …my deal was for $100,000, and they’d already paid me $50,000 upfront …which I might have been able to scrape together, but it would’ve broken me, so I let it go (plus, I also had a small twinge of guilt about “breaking up the band” and going solo without paul & fred) …in retrospect, I wish i would’ve done it …I still had money coming in from the commercials and appearances, so I would’ve made it back, plus, I would’ve been working on a network TV show, and the experience might’ve opened some awesome doors for me …but alas, hindsight is 20/20 …UPN ended up giving the role to adele givens -- instead of DL’s brother, they turned it into the wife’s wisecracking sister ...but, like they say; “it’s an honor just to be nominated.”

but all of that is just backstory… let’s move on…

(by the way: for the rest of the story, I am not going to use the real names of the people/places involved... just because, well, you never know... )

For anyone who does’nt know, when people say the “velvet mafia”, this is what they’re talking about… it’s common knowledge that for most of hollywood’s history, almost all of the power positions (studio heads, network presidents, executives, producers, etc) were held by jews. But, over the last couple of decades, when you talk to anyone in the business, they all talk about how gay men have quietly been taking over many of those power positions. Hence; “the gay mafia”, or “the velvet mafia”. (Disclaimer: I'm not implying that it's a good or bad thing or that anyone really gives a shit, I'm simply saying, that's what’s been going on behind the scenes, that's all)

Now, to his credit, mark had A LOT of connections in the entertainment biz. and through those connections he got me a meeting with Mr. X, the head of casting for one of the big TV networks. When we arrive for the meeting, we're told that Mr. X won’t be in today, so instead, we would be meeting with Mr. Y, the VP of casting. Hey, no biggie, meeting the VP is still pretty big deal, right? Almost immediately, it’s pretty clear that Mr. Y is gay...or, at the very least; extremely effeminate. (“not that there’s anything wrong with it!”) He kinda reminded me of a young, much more subdued, charles nelson riley (minus the glasses). He was cordial, but not overly excited to meet me. (not saying he should have been, just describing his demeanor) His attitude seemed to be "ok, why are you here and what do you want from me?" I begin engaging him in conversation (I was always very good "in the room", it’s one of the very rare times in life when my encyclopaedic knowledge of TV & movies not only comes in handy, but it’s actually seen as impressive), and pretty soon, he's loosening up…we're joking, laughing and having a very pleasant chat. At some point in the conversation I mentioned that I'm a HUGE fan of “Cop Drama” -- one of the hit shows on his network. I said something to effect of; I'm such a big fan that I'd be honored just to play a corpse with no lines. I also made the remark; “I'd do anything to be on the show.” He paused for a moment, looked at me and said; "anything?" "anything", i repeated...totally oblivious. It was'nt until he said; "really...?" -- in that way -- that I started to panic a little. I remember shooting a look over at mark, but he just gave me the ol' hey-don't-look-at-me shrug. (bastard) Without another word, Mr. Y picks up his office phone, hits a button and says; “could you come in here for a minute, there’s someone I think you should meet”, then hangs up, and says; “it’ll be just a minute.” I have no clue what we’re waiting for, and we’re just sitting there for a few moments not saying anything. Pretty soon, this guy comes walking into the office -- we’ll call him Mr. Z -- a short-ish, chubby-ish, bald, brown-skinned, young fellow with glasses. If someone would’ve told me he was al roker’s younger brother I totally would’ve believed it. He’s looking down at a clipboard and flipping through some papers. I stand up to greet him, and his trajectory is bringing him right toward me. As he’s walking and looking down at the clipboard he says; “what’s so important that you needed me to…”, he stops when he realizes there’s something in front of him. I’m standing there smiling, he looks at my face, looks me up & down, looks back up at my face, holds out his hand and says; “well…hello.” From behind me I hear Mr. Y chuckle and say; “I thought you’d like him.” He then says to Mr. Z; “you might recognize scott from the busweiser commercials…he was just telling me how he’s a huge fan of ‘cop drama’ and would do anything to be on the show.” Mr. Z looks at me and says; “anything?” -- in that way -- I blush and say; “yeah…I guess I did kinda say that.” Mr. Y then tells me that Mr. Z is in charge of casting for “Cop Drama”, so if anyone could get me on the show, it would be him. Mr. Z chit-chats with me briefly, asks me a couple of questions, like when I’d be back on the east coast and such, then leaves. Mark and I continue talking with Mr. Y, who by this point has taken such a shine to me, that he says; “hey, do you want to meet janet jackson?” “um…hell yes!”, I reply without hesitation. He tells me that she’s just across the lot in one of the studios, taping “Late Night Talk Show”, and if we hurry we can catch her. So we leave the offices and speed-walk across the backlot. Now, don’t get too excited…it’s pretty anti-climactic. We get to the studio, Mr. Y tells the stage hands he wants to introduce me to janet, but they tell us that we JUST missed her, her limo had just pulled off a couple of minutes ago. So, mark and I exchange a few pleasantries with Mr. Y then we leave. (this was right around the time when janet was going through her “I’m really enjoying being single and dating” phase, and when I heard she had accepted a date from that radio DJ who asked her out on-air, and then she got engaged to jermaine dupree, I was like; “damnnit!!! That coulda been ME dating janet jackson!!!”)

Fast forward a couple days. I’m still in LA, at my hotel with my girlfriend who I flew in from philly. My phone rings. It’s somebody from “Cop Drama”…they told me that Mr. Z called them and told them to get me an audition!!! They wanted to know if I was going to be in NYC that Tuesday… I told them I’d make it my business to be there!!! So I cancelled my plans in LA and booked us a flight back to philly. A script was waiting for me when I got back to my apartment… I was reading for the role of a nightclub bouncer who gets questioned by the detectives, so I would’ve been in a scene with the stars of the show. I was ecstatic!!! And how fucking cool was that!!! Mr. Z totally hooked me up… and he did’nt even ask for a handjob or anything!!! Alas, I wish I had a better end for the story. I went to the audition, and even though it was one the coldest rooms I’d ever been in (everybody was just kinda stoic, sitting there looking at me with stone faces), I left feeling ok about my performance. But I did’nt get it. I’ve since seen the episode, and the guy they hired looked to be around 6’3”, dark-skinned with dreads…so, physically, I definitely was not what they were looking for. (because, honestly, his performance was nothing special -- which is something I rarely say, I don’t hate on actors who beat me for roles, there have been plenty of times when I’ve admitted an actor did way better than I would’ve done -- just not this time). And maybe Mr. Z might have tried to collect on his favor if I’d actually gotten the part. Who knows. But, that was my first, and to date only, experience with the so-called “velvet mafia.” And all things considered… it was’nt that bad…

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

That Lizard HATES Me.


originally posted @ http://scottmartinbrooks.blogspot.com


little known fact… back when anheuser-bush first bought the idea for the “whassup!” commercials, their sole intention was to use it as part of their new “ethnic” campaign, and that’s all. you see, the biggest problem that budweiser has (and this comes straight from the mouths of A-B executives) is that budweiser is known as the “bubba beer”…ie; it’s the beer of rednecks & ”good ol’ boys” (if we ever wanted to make the A-B execs heads explode, all we had to do was say “bubba-beer”). and that’s the one major image problem they’d been wanting to change for years, so when they were approached with the “whassup” concept, they jumped on it, seeing it as the spearhead (no pun intended) for an all new ethnic campaign aimed at the “urban” market, hoping that it would make bud cool to black folks (that same year, they also launched a budweiser campaign aimed at the latino market, featuring carlos mencia). so, when we were invited to attend the anheuser-bush national convention in early 2000, and they did their big presentation, showcasing the new ad campaigns for the coming year, and we saw that our commercials were being touted as the new ethnic campaign, we all looked at each other like; “huh? what the?” we all just assumed we’d be a regular ol’ budweiser commercial…not relegated to some ethnic slot that would probably only air on BET during the soul train awards. but hey, we had national commercials on the air, so we weren’t complaining. and the showcase made it clear that bud fully intended to continue using “the liazrds” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aS3op_7QViY) -- who were still very popular -- as their dominant mainstream ad campaign.


jump ahead one year. our commercials are now a full-blown, mainstream phenomenon…to A-B’s utter chagrin. the commercials are wildly popular and beloved by everyone…especially white folks. The A-B execs never expected this, and they weren’t really sure how to handle it (because, as i‘ve talked about before, it was a MAJOR problem that their flagship brand; Budweiser - the all american beer - was being represented by 4 young black guys). so, this time when we attend the national convention, and they did the showcase where they presented the new ad campaigns for the coming year, the “whassup!” commercials are now the center-piece. we are the dominant, mainstream ad campaign for the company…to thunderous applause from all the anheuser-bush executives and wholesalers.


problem was… nobody told the lizards.


after the presentation ended, and everybody was filing into the convention center for the expo, we ran into danny & paul…the actors who did the voices of the lizards. danny (“frankie“) was really cool, he happily shook our hands and congratulated us on all our success. But paul (“louie“) …he stood back and wanted nothing to do with us. he was visibly pissed, and even when i walked up to him to say hello & shake hands, he just turned his back and shunned me. i was equal parts angry (because he disrespected me) and bemused (because this grown-ass man was acting like such a little bitch). i, uh, think i might have *cough* made some kind of…um, comment…about wanting to slap the shit outta him. danny was embarrassed, and apologized to us for the way paul was acting. he told us that they were both just a little stunned, because A-B never told either of them that they were going to be phased out and that “whassup” was replacing the lizards…they only found out a few minutes ago when they saw the presentation. looking back, i can totally understand why paul would be pissed…if i had been doing a job for several years, and just found out that i was, in effect, being demoted, and found out in such an un-cool way…i’d probably be really, really pissed off too. i just don’t think i’d be such a dick to to the new guy, who really didn’t do anything to me personally.


jump ahead a few months. i was in NYC for an audition, and afterward i stopped by my agency. i’m sitting at my agent’s desk, shootin’ the shit, when i happen to see someone familiar sitting at one of the other desks. it was paul. i ask my agent what he’s doing there, and she tells me; “paul‘s been one of our client‘s for years!” what??? that son-of-a-bitch…he’s with MY agency??? she asks why i’m so perturbed, and i tell her the story. she says she’s shocked because paul is usually so nice. well, apparently, he sees me talking about him (probably because i was pointing and looking directly at him while making the meanest of mean-mugs). eventually he comes walking toward us. i stand up, ready to curse him the fuck out if he shows me the slightest hint of attitude. but instead, he holds his hand out to shake. i just look at his hand, then at him. my agent sits at her desk, just looking at us, not sure what to do. paul lowers his hand, then lowers his head and sighs. he says to me; “hey man, i apologize. i acted really shitty that day. i was just angry, that whole thing took me by surprise and i took it out on you guys. but it was‘nt your fault. i should‘nt have done that.” and with that, i was totally cool. We shook hands and all was well. My agent let out a sigh of relief, and a little nervous laugh.


epilogue. some time later, i was at a sound studio in NYC for an audition for a radio commercial. i’m at the front desk signing in, when a lil’ guy who looked like an older george costanza comes up to me, shakes my hand and says; “i have some people you need to meet”, doesn’t let go of my hand, and pulls me away. i look back at the receptionist like “wtf?”, and she just laughs and waves bye-bye. he takes me into the back, through the hallway, over to one of the studios, opens the door, and points to the recording booth. it was danny & paul. they were there recording some new radio spots for bud (up until then, i didn’t know which guy did which lizard, and it was both cool and weird seeing the lizard voices coming out of their heads). he then gets on the microphone, interrupting their take, and says; “gentlemen, look who i‘ve got here!” they look up, see it’s me, and erupt into laughter…danny says; “hey, it‘s the guy who took our job!” we all laugh. the little guy slaps me on the back, excuses himself and leaves the room. danny & paul take a break, come out into the lounge, and the 3 of us laugh & talk for a while…busting each other’s balls, bitching about anheuser-bush, swapping stories, etc. it was fun. they’re both really cool dudes. eventually they had to get back to work, and i went back out to the lobby to re-sign-in for my audition. i asked the receptionist who that little guy was. She said; ”he‘s the owner of the studio! when he saw you, he thought it’d be funny to have the whassup guy meet the lizards!” …and that man turned out to be vladamir putin. ok, not really, but how awesome would that have been?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Jay Leno...


originally posted @ http://scottmartinbrooks.blogspot.com


...i know a lot of folks feel some kind of way about jay leno… after that whole thing with letterman back in the 90’s, and then again with conan a couple years ago. And, yeah, maybe that stuff does kinda make him look like a dick. But, I gotta tell ya’, in my experience, Jay leno was one of the coolest people I met.


...here’s a couple of quick jay stories.


so, me and the guys were in atlanta making an appearance at some expo, when our publicist, bill (“boom boom”), comes to us very excited and tells us that we need to leave immediately, we’re booked on a flight leaving that night…because we’re going to be on the tonight show, and we needed to be in LA the next day!!! (they require that any out-of-town guests are in town by 5pm the day before the show, as insurance that they won’t no-show) So we go back to our hotel, pack up, and head to the airport. heather kozar - playboy playmate of the millennium - was tagging along with us, apparently she was headed back to the playboy mansion or something (she - along with cindy margolis and brooke burke - was under contract with anheuser-bush at the time so she was at the expo with us). She and I had become buddies at the expo, we sat next to each other and talked the whole way...except for when she fell asleep, nestled snugly on my shoulder. (it’s the little things) But I digress…


We get to LA, check-in to our hotel, and boom-boom tells us that since we did’nt get to go home first, and since we were notorious for only packing casual wear when we traveled, he’s gonna take us shopping in the morning, on budweiser’s credit card. (awwwe-sooome!!!) So, the next day, after breakfast, we head over to macy’s and pick out some outifts (can anyone say “80’s movie music montage”?), and we heard over to the NBC studios in burbank.


We’re met at the studio by laurane - the publicist who got us the appearance, and steve & tracy - the producers handling our segment. They show us to our dressing rooms… there were placards on the doors with our names and the tonight show logo, and pretty sweet gift baskets with ‘tonight show’ coffee mugs, baseball caps, t-shirts, etc… which, to me, was just the coolest thing ever. (i had always heard the guests on talk shows make jokes about the gift baskets, and now, here i am, getting one!) And then, like a bunch of kids on a field trip, we start milling around, checking things out, going in rooms we probably should’nt have gone in, touching things we probably should’nt have been touching. During all this, we noticed something; the dressing rooms at the tonight show were kinda like your grandparent’s house; nice, but, everything’s just a little… old… dingy. Eventually we settle back into our dressing rooms, we’re standing around shootin’ the shit, when jay comes walking in. We all burst into a big “HEY!”, and crowd around him, shaking hands, totally geeking out like fans. “Hey fellas! Good to meet you guys! We’re all really excited to have you on the show! Thanks for coming!”, he says, in that jay leno voice. We introduce ourselves, and engage in some friendly banter. Then, from out of nowhere, paul speaks up and says; “hey jay…you know, we have been on A LOT of tv shows, and, we’ve seen A LOT of dressing rooms, and, I gotta tell ya’, this, by far…is the CRAPPIEST dressing room i’ve seen yet.” Me, fred, and chuck stopped breathing… in our minds we were all totally freaking out, like; “OH SHIT!!! NO HE DID’NT!!!” but, without missing a beat, jay immediately snaps back; “yeah, I know, I’m really sorry about that guys… but, you see... we keep the REALLY nice dressing rooms downstairs for our WHITE guests… we’ve got a chef carving roast beef, butlers serving champagne…” at that moment we all erupted with laughter… and we knew jay leno was cool as shit. (i mean, we all know paul, and totally get his sense of humor, but, we had no idea if jay was gonna take it as a joke… lucky for paul, jay totally got it too… side-note: when i went into make-up, the make-up chick said to me; “I hear jay stopped by your dressing room to say hi… wow… he must really like you guys, he almost never does that!”)


About a year later, i was back at NBC for a meeting. After the meeting, i went over to the tonight show studio and asked if i could say hi to jay. The stage manager said; “absolutely! Just wait here in the wings, he’s doing the post-show wrap-up right now, he’ll just be a few minutes.” The band sees me waiting and waves me over, so I’m shootin’ the shit with kevin eubanks and the band while jay signs autographs and takes pictures, which he apparently does after every show. At some point he looks over and sees me, smiles & waves, and gives me the “wait a minute” finger-signal. I turn back and continue talking with the band. A couple minutes later, I feel someone slap me on my back…hard. I bark; “motherfucker, I’m about whoop somebody’s ass…” as I turn around. Of course it was jay. We shoot the shit for a little bit… i don’t remember about what, i just remember thinking how cool it all was… cool that i was able to just stroll up to the tonight show and get backstage, and cool that jay leno remembered me and came over to talk to me.


But, you know what the one thing is that I remember most vividly whenever i think about jay leno? His head. Jay leno has a REALLY big head. (in the business, they call it “TV head”)