I had just boarded my flight to New York, and sat down in first class, when a stewardess told me I was in the wrong seat. I had taken the aisle seat, 3B, and the stewardess said that I should be sitting in the window seat.
I stood up and pulled my ticket out of my pocket. I showed it to her. “There, it says ‘3B,’ right?”
The stewardess squinted at my ticket. “Well, that is just the darnedest thing.” She turned to a tall blonde girl who was standing behind her. “I’m sorry, miss, but somehow you both got assigned the same seat.”
The girl looked at my ticket, then at me, then at the stewardess. Her eyes started to fill with tears.
I smiled at them both. “No problem. I’ll just take the window seat.”
The stewardess shook her head. “I’m sorry, this is a full flight. That seat is already taken.”
The blonde girl blinked at the stewardess. A tear rolled down her cheek.
I turned to the stewardess. “I could take a seat in the back. Maybe you could comp me or something…?”
“I’ll check. But I believe this flight is sold out.”
A man stepped around the stewardess. “Excuse me. I’m traveling with her.” He gestured to the blonde girl. “I can give her my seat.”
The stewardess shook her head. “Sir, if you disembark, your seat will get turned over to our waiting list.”
He shook his head. “Please. Can’t she just take my seat?”
“I’m sorry, sir. If you’ve checked baggage and you get off now, I have to call the air marshal. And your seat will automatically go to the waiting list.”
The blonde girl started to whimper. A silent tear swelled in her right eye, then slid down her shiny cheek. She wiped her hand across her face.
The man tried once again with the stewardess. “Please, you don’t understand—” He leaned close to her. “—This is Taylor Swift. We need to get her to New York. She’s playing Madison Square Garden tonight.”
“I’m sorry, sir. Just give me a minute, please.” The stewardess turned and rushed up to the cockpit.
I turned to Taylor and her friend. “Listen guys, I’m so sorry about this. I totally know what it’s like. I have to get to New York, too. I’m doing an AT&T audition tomorrow. I usually do movies, but my agent thought—”
“Please—” The man cut me off. “Just give us a moment, okay?”
The man started to pet Taylor’s head. Gradually, she leaned her ear against his shoulder. After a moment, the tears stopped. She stared off into the distance.
The stewardess returned and grabbed my arm. “Sir, let me see your ticket.”
I handed her my ticket. She put on her reading glasses and held the ticket up in front of her face. “Sir, you’re not sitting in first class. You’re back there, 3B.”
I looked at my ticket. “Oh, I assumed I was in first class. I’m auditioning for an AT&T commercial tomorrow—”
“You’ll need to get your stuff and move.”
“Oh, okay.” I reached up and grabbed my laptop bag from the overhead. I turned to Taylor and her friend. “Sorry about that. Good luck.”
I nodded to the stewardess and shouldered my bag. I walked into the economy cabin, and found row 3. I stuffed my laptop into the overhead, then climbed over a passenger and squeezed into my middle seat.
I had found a new agent, and one of the first auditions he sent me on was for an HBO series. I would be reading for the part of a father. It was an older, more mature role than I was used to. My agent told me to dress conservatively, maybe wear a suit.
I flew to New York the next day and took a taxi over to HBO’s offices. I checked in at the main desk and rode an elevator up to the 11th floor. The elevator opened and a receptionist greeted me. She walked me into a small waiting area and told me to take a seat.
I was sitting alone in the waiting area when one of the show’s production assistants walked through. She was carrying a stack of scripts. She saw me sitting in a chair and stopped. “Hi, are you here for the audition?”
I stood up. “Yes.”
“Can I get you some coffee?”
I shook my head. “No, thanks. A beer, maybe…”
She laughed. “Right. I hear that.”
I nodded. “Yeah, I’m a little nervous…”
She started to walk away. “I’m sure you’ll be great.”
I smiled. “Okay. Thanks, baby.”
The girl stopped suddenly. She spun around. “What did you say?”
“Did you call me ‘baby?’”
“Oh…yeah. Is that bad?”
“You called me ‘baby?’”
“I call everybody baby.”
“You’re auditioning for GIRLS and you called me ‘baby?’”
“I didn’t know that—”
She dropped her pile of scripts on a coffee table. “Do you know who I am?”
“Are you one of the PA’s?”
“OH-MY-GOD.” She put her hand to her head. “I don’t believe it…”
I tried to get her attention. “Wait, listen—this is TV, right?”
She was rubbing her forehead and looking at the floor. I waved to get her attention. “This is TV, right? We say ‘baby’ all the—”
The girl stepped in front of me. She stuck out her hand to shake mine. “Hi. My name’s Lena. This is my show. You’re auditioning for my show. Do you know why I started this show?”
“Listen, I really thought you were a PA—”
“Let me tell you why. So that women wouldn’t have to be called ‘baby’ and take crap from guys like you.”
“I call everybody ‘baby.’ Men, too.”
“Well, you must be very proud.”
She was standing very close. Suddenly, I recognized her. “WAIT—you’re the girl who always takes her clothes off, right?”
She was rubbing her forehead. “Listen, just forget the audition. Just pack up your stuff and leave. Now.”
She waved her arms. “Please. Just go.”
I picked up my coat. “But you’re the girl who doesn’t wear any clothes, right?”
“I mean, that’s you, right? You do all the nude scenes?”
“Yes, that’s me.”
I smiled. “Wow, I’ve seen you…”
A man came running into the room. “YEAH?”
The girl pointed at me. “GET HIM OUT OF HERE. NOW.”
The guy stepped in front of me. “Sir, I need to ask you to leave.”
I already had my coat in my hand. “Sure thing.”
I started to walk to the elevator. I could hear the girl stomping her foot behind me. I pushed the elevator button and turned to look back. She was pointing her finger at me. “You will never work in New York again. Do you hear me? I can promise you that.”
The elevator opened. I stepped in, pressed ‘Lobby,’ and rode the elevator down to the street.
Cows and Thunder is the result of a longtime musical partnership between singer-songwriter-guitarist Steven Capozzola and slide guitar-mandola player Dennis Sharkey. For more than a decade, the two have performed an original stew of folk, country, and blues music throughout the northeastern United States.
In recent years, the two have established Woodstock, NY as their musical home base, and have begun collaborating with a number of local musicians, including bassist/producer David Andersen. The resulting band, Cows and Thunder, focuses on sing-along country-rock and Americana music.
The ‘Cows and Thunder’ album was recorded entirely in Saugerties, NY, in the shadow of the famed Overlook Mountain. Several of the album’s songs were debuted at the 2013 Woodstock ‘Concert on the Green.’
The thick woods and pine trees of West Saugerties inform much of the album’s vibe, and Capozzola says he particularly enjoys the crickets that remain clearly audible throughout the album’s closing track, “When The Money Runs Out.”
He explains, “We love Woodstock, and we love the music scene up here. We’re not worried about breaking new musical ground. We just want to play the kind of songs that we love to listen to. When I listen to the finished record, I think of driving along Route 212, or strumming guitars on the back porch and looking up at the mountain. Hopefully we’ve captured some of that on the album.”
Cows and Thunder continue to play gigs throughout the Woodstock area. The featured track on the album, “Driving,” is now available on iTunes.
I flew up to San Francisco to meet with the producer, John Montoya. He was working on a new TV series called ‘I Love Flipper.’ According to my agent, he was considering me for a lead role.
I met up with John at a private party being held at Caffe Proust. It was a birthday party for a singer he’d produced, Joe Powell. When I walked in, I saw John Montoya talking with his brother, Baby Jim. John was wearing a full-length fur coat; two small dogs were barking at the trailing edge of his coat. John ignored the dogs and hurried over to give me a hug. “Hey Man…”
John gave me a look. “Listen, you can’t call me ‘John’ anymore.”
“Oh. Sorry baby.”
“In this town they call me ‘2 Cold.’”
“Right, right. ‘2 Cold.’ Got it.”
He nodded. “It’s just too cold for me here. I can’t roll with it. L.A.’s my town.”
“I hear that.”
2 Cold pointed to his brother. “This is my bro, Baby Jim.”
We shook hands. “Good to see you again.”
2 Cold put his arm on my shoulder. “Come on. I’ll get you a drink.”
He began steering me toward the bar. The dogs trailed after 2 Cold’s fur coat. Suddenly we bumped into Joe Powell. He was talking to Anne Heche and Emilio Estevez. I paused and patted Joe on the back.
“Happy Birthday, Joe.”
He turned and gave me the famous Joe Powell grin. “Thanks, man.”
I smiled. “You know what, Joe, I gotta tell you, your band is so great. ‘Stanley and the Prince James Love Machine’ is the best band in America. I’ve been meaning to catch one of your shows because— ”
Joe squinted at me. “It’s ‘Stymie and the Pimp Jones Luv Orchestra.’”
I nodded. “Oh, right. Yeah, I think I heard that—”
2 Cold leaned over and began pushing me toward the bar. Joe gave me a quick look and turned back to Anne Heche and Emilio Estevez.
We stepped up to the bar. I noticed that Miss P herself was bartending. I smiled my tough-guy-with-love smile and looked into her eyes. “How are you, baby?”
Miss P grinned. “Fine, thanks. What can I get you?”
“A Bud, please.”
2 Cold looked at Miss P. “Make that two Buds.”
2 Cold turned to me. “Let me tell you about the show.”
“Yeah, baby. Lay it on me.”
“I want to do a show that’s totally retro, you know?”
“And I want to take the best stuff from the best shows.”
“Talk it like you walk it.”
Miss P reached across the bar and handed us two bottles of Bud. I smiled at her. “Thanks.” I put a $5 bill in her tip jar.
2 Cold took a sip of his beer. “What I want to do is take part of ‘I Love Lucy’ and mix it with ‘Flipper.’”
I drank my beer. “Yeah, baby.”
“And maybe a little bit of ‘Leave It To Beaver.’”
2 Cold adjusted his coat. Several gold chains jingled around his neck. He looked at me. “So I need to get the good-looking Ricky Ricardo guy who teaches the dolphin, you know? ‘Cause it’s all about their relationship. Each week we gotta learn more about them.”
I nodded. “Yup. That’s it.”
Suddenly, Baby Jim walked up to 2 Cold. “Your lady’s getting hit on by Anne Heche.”
2 Cold looked at Baby Jim. “Anne Heche is digging Warmer Parts.”
“That’s what I said.”
2 Cold looked around the room for a moment. Then he turned back to Baby Jim. “That’s cool.”
Baby Jim nodded. “Just thought you’d want to know.” He took a sip of his drink and walked away.
2 Cold adjusted his fur coat. He took a sip of his beer and stared out across the room. “Yeah, all my ladies, man…But Warmer Parts, you know…She and I are tight, you know?”
“Rick James has got Mary Jane. I got my Warmer Parts.”
He took a sip of his beer. I finished mine and motioned to Miss P for another.
2 Cold looked at me. “Are you and Roseanne still kickin’ it?”
I shook my head. “No. That ended years ago.”
“Oh…” 2 Cold stared off across the room. He took another sip of his beer. Then he turned to me. “Anyway, I’m gonna make this show a big hit. And I’m gonna need that Ricky Ricardo, dark-haired, handsome dude, you know?”
“I mean, you hear me, right?”
I nodded. Miss P handed me another beer. I put another $5 bill in her tip jar. “Thanks.”
I turned back to 2 Cold. He took a sip of his beer. “And I’m gonna need you, too.”
I paused. “Wait—what?”
2 Cold nodded. “Yeah. I need someone to play Big Craig. He feeds flipper. Each week he falls into the tank and they have to pull him out. He makes a big splash and gets all water-logged. They have to pull him out before he drowns. The audience’ll love it.”
“You’ll be perfect. How much do you weigh?”
I put down my beer. “I…I’m not sure.”
“You gotta find out, man. Have your agent call me. We’ll get some clothes fitted for you, okay?”
“Okay, great…Listen, I’m gonna go talk to my lady. But you enjoy the party, okay?”
2 Cold turned in his fur coat and walked off across the room. For a moment I watched the two little dogs jumping at the bottom of his coat. Then I picked up my beer and took a gulp.
I’m not sure when it was, or for what movie, but my agent once sent me to New York for a movie audition. I flew into New York and took a cab into midtown Manhattan. I found myself hurrying down the main escalator of Grand Central Station, in a rush to catch a train to my audition. I had probably a minute-and-a-half to make a train on the lower level. I was sort of pushing my way down the escalator, ducking past people, muttering, “Excuse me, excuse me.” Near the bottom of the escalator, I half-stumbled into a short, dark-haired woman.
“Pardon me,” I said.
The woman poked me in the shoulder. “Why don’t you watch where you going? You knock me over, why not?”
I continued down the escalator. I half-turned to the woman. “Sorry, baby— I gotta make a train.” I continued jostling down the escalator. “Excuse me, excuse me…”
Behind me, the dark-haired woman shouted, “`BABY’— you don’t call me ‘baby.'”
I ignored her and jumped down the last few steps of the escalator. I landed on the tan marble floor of Grand Central’s main hall. I began hurrying toward the north stairwell. I had less than a minute to get to the lower level and catch my train.
I hadn’t gone more than 10 steps when someone crashed into me. I fell forward, landing flat on my hands and knees. My Bitterman trenchcoat— which I’d been carrying over my right arm— draped itself across the floor.
A woman’s voice shouted behind me, “That’s for calling me ‘baby.'”
I stood up and turned around. It was the dark-haired woman from the escalator. She was wearing large wraparound sunglasses and a black leather jacket. Her face looked familiar. She touched her bun of hair to steady it. I suddenly realized that I was looking at Yoko Ono.
I hurriedly picked up my trenchcoat. “My God, Yoko, honey— I had no idea it was you.”
Yoko glared at me. “You a very bad person.”
I folded my trenchcoat. “Oh, baby— don’t say that. You gotta forgive me. See, I just gotta make this train.” I turned and pointed at the stairwell to the lower level. “See, I gotta go. All right, honey?… Everything’s cool, right? Okay, bye…”
Yoko stomped her foot. “No, no. You say sorry, right now.”
I was frantic to make my train. “No, Yoko— I love you, baby, you know that—”
I had to think quickly. “My God,” I shouted. “What’s that?” I pointed to something behind Yoko. She turned to look, putting up a hand to steady her hair. Instantly I sprinted off to the stairwell.
I jumped down the first part of the stairs. Behind me Yoko began shouting, “Creep, creep…”
I jumped the final steps to the lower level. I could hear the clip-clop of Yoko’s feet echoing behind me in the stairwell. She was chasing after me. I ran down the hall to my train’s gate. I ducked through the gate and sprinted down the ramp leading to the platform.
Yoko saw me run through the gate. She began shrieking something unintelligible, “Eeeeeeeeeeeehhh…”
I spotted my train waiting along the platform. At that moment, a bell sounded. Just as I reached the first car of the train, the door slid shut in front of me.
I panted frantically. I glanced back at Yoko and began pounding on the door of the train.
“Please, somebody. For God’s sake— open the door…”
I pounded on the door again. A Metro-North conductor walked by; he ignored me.
I glanced back again at Yoko. She was bounding down the ramp. Her bun of hair was flopping loosely around her ears. I pushed off the door of the train and began sprinting down the platform.
I ran past the next car, and then past the dining car, trying to put some distance between me and Yoko. I glanced back and saw her lurching clumsily along, half-trying to steady her hair. Stray black hairs had fallen across her sunglasses.
The bell of the train rang again. I ran to the next car and began pounding on the door. “Please somebody— anybody. Help me. God—”
A conductor appeared in front of the door. He was holding a clipboard. He yelled through the window, “You got a ticket?”
“Yes, yes,” I shouted, still pounding on the glass. “I have a ticket.”
“Let me see it.”
I reached into my pocket to pull out my round-trip voucher. I glanced back at Yoko. She had pulled a hairpin out of her hair. She was charging toward me, holding the hairpin like a knife in her hand. All her hair had flopped down crazily around her face. She saw me glance at her and began to shout, “AIGHHH…”
I dug out my voucher and held it up for the conductor. “Please, hurry. She’s gonna kill me…”
The conductor glanced at my ticket. Then he reached up and pushed the door release button. A bell rang and the door slid open. I fell inside, panting and wheezing.
“Oh, thank Christ,” I gasped. “Thank you, Lord.”
The conductor released the button and the door slid shut. Just at that moment, Yoko leaped for the door. I looked up in time to see her face bounce off the window. She fell back onto the platform.
The Metro-North conductor didn’t seem to notice Yoko caroming off the door. He reached down and helped me to my feet. “Let me have your ticket.”
I handed him my round-trip voucher. The train began to rumble down the track.
**In 2004, I published an article (below) in The San Francisco Herald explaining why I thought comedian Will Franken was/is a genius. To this day, he remains the funniest man in the world. (Currently, he’s performing throughout England.)
Click here to watch a brief clip of Franken’s stage show.
Will Franken: A Comedic Genius in the making
17 February 2004 — Recently, at San Francisco’s Punchline Comedy Club, NBC held open auditions for comedians interested in winning a spot on the TV show ‘Last Comic Standing.’ Hundreds of West Coast comics showed up, some camping out overnight to get an early slot. Comedian Will Franken showed up on the day of the tryout. But not to audition.
“I just wanted to witness it, all these predictable idiots lined up for the cattle call,” Franken says. “I just thought it would be funny to see all that awfulness in one place.’
Franken’s stage show is a complete departure from the typical “Let me tell you about my wacky life” patter that saturates comedy clubs across the country. And it’s a measure of the reverence that Bay Area comics have for Franken that two of them actually purchased his live CD, ‘Concert to Benefit the Victims of My Father,’ while waiting in line to audition. Even more revealing about Franken, though, is his typical reluctance to sell CDs to rival comics for fear that they might steal from his act.
Copying him is unlikely though. Franken is much more an actor and performer than a comedian, and when he does spot-on impersonations of a folksy open mic host, or an anti-drug lecturer, he steps inside unique, authentic personas. Instead of delivering one-liners, Franken simply becomes these diverse characters, something that a generic stand-up comic would be hard-pressed to replicate.
“I’m definitely more of an actor than anything else,” explains Franken. “I just happen to act out scenes that people find funny.”
What audiences find so amusing are Franken’s penchant for skewering a wide cross-section of America: wimpy folk singers, authoritarian politicians (the “Imaginary President of the United States of the World”), Berkeley liberals, slam poets, lecherous college professors… And in the fortified bastion of Leftist San Francisco, Franken takes particular delight in mocking political correctness. In one of his more frequent routines, “The Impersonators,” he points to the hypocrisy of comedians making fun of White Trash America while forbidding any commentary on blacks, Latinos, or homosexuals.
“It’s the death of satire,” Franken says ruefully. “Right now is exactly the time when we should be seeing an undercurrent of satirical commentary in this country, but everything is off-limits. And it seems like the most intolerant people live in Berkeley. They’re the ones who should know better.”
Because Franken originally hails from Missouri, he may possess more than the average comedian’s empathy for Middle America. But what informs most of his humor are disconnected references to everyday pop culture. He has often been described as a “human television set”—a reference to his frequent jumping from one scenario to another. But describing his stage show is actually far more difficult.
Franken fills each scene with innumerable non-sequiturs and nods to recent news. And so, a politician railing against terrorism will lament the “recent tragedy of October 38th.” An effusive preacher will cite scripture from the “Book of Joe Pesci.” An STD activist will mourn the loss of his “lover, Thomas J. McClintock.” And a tough-talking football coach will demand “458%” from his team in the “big game against Timothy McVeigh High School.” No matter Franken’s acting skills, it’s his injection of absurd cultural touchstones that most often pushes his humor over the top.
Did the performer establish a clear set of goals before his/her performance?
YES ___ NO ___
Did the performer demonstrate a command of the subject matter?
YES___ NO ___
Did the performer gyrate?
YES ___ NO ___
Did the performer promote his/her Facebook, Twitter, website, CDs, gigs, and crowd-funding campaign?
YES ___ NO ___
Did the performer bring shame on the House of Connolly?
YES ___ NO ___
*For demographic purposes, please feel free to answer the following questions (with all answers kept strictly confidential):
SEX: Male ___ Female ___ AGE: ___
FAVORITE GENRE(S) OF MUSIC (check all that apply):
Rock___ Folk ___ Hep-Hap ___ Twist ___ Metal ___ Harris ___ Other ___
What 5 celebrities would you most like to see permanently sealed in a hyperbaric chamber?
Would you like to manage a Starbucks?
YES ___ NO ___
Can you operate a cross-bow?
YES ___ NO ___ (If “No,” would you like to learn: Yes ___ NO ___)
Would you be willing to relocate to any of the following (check all that apply)?
Detroit ___ Thailand ___ Barbara ___ Other ___
Do you have operational knowledge of the plan?
YES ___ NO ___