Sunday, February 20, 2011

'Gram of the Week (2/14/11 - 2/20/11)

What do you get for a 60 year old man when the french maid is already booked for the weekend?

Why a guy dressed up as a nun, of course!

Enter Sister Bernstein from that small convent up the road, "Our Lady of Perpetual Motion".

Al, yes another Al ( what are the odds?), was celebrating with family and friends this weekend. A union plumber, Al's a funny guy; a little OCD. Likes to ride his exercise bike every single night at 7PM for a half-hour while watching TV.

Funniest story about Al. When his daughter went into labor, Al and his wife accompanied her into the delivery room. I'm guessing he's a little fidgety, because he spied what he thought were headphones and assumed it was a stereo-system for the mother-to-be to wear while she's in labor.

Not quite, Al. They were part of a sonogram or ultrasound machine. And when he put them over his head, he got gel in his ears. His daughter said she almost gave birth to her son right there watching her Dad squirming, trying to get the gel out of his ears!


'Gram of the Week (2/7/11- 2/13/11)

Alfred's a romantic.

Alfred wanted to propose to his girlfriend of three years, but wanted to do it in a memorable way.

So Alfred told Giselle he had to go to China on business and could she take him to the airport on Tuesday. Giselle agreed and dropped him off at JFK Airport Tuesday morning. After he was sure she was out of sight, he caught a cab back to his home in Brooklyn and hid out for two days.

On Thursday, Giselle met her family for lunch at Café Venezia on Coney Island Avenue in Brooklyn. Unbeknownst to Giselle, Alfred's Uncle situated himself in the restaurant with a video camera and caught me coming in , approaching the table, and singing all these generalities about Giselle. She's trying to process exactly why I'm there, since it's not her Birthday and it's not Valentine's Day........"and how does he know so much about me?"

Alfred had to stay within earshot of my song, because he gets a special cue to come in. I structure the song so that at the very end of the song, I start to sing:

"Al would like nothing more in life
Than for you to be his wife
So now he's down on bended knee.........."

(at which point Al comes in and gets down on his knee in front of Giselle, while fumbling for the ring in his pocket)

"And he's asking........"

(As a rule, I NEVER pop the question. I tell the client, "YOU do the actual proposing. And it has to rhyme with 'knee,' so when I say 'Now he's down on bended knee, and he's asking......,' your job is to say 'Giselle, will you marry me!' ")

It works every single time!

Tears, hugs, kisses, applause from the patrons in the restaurant.

I love this job! Always a happy occassion!

BTW, she said "Yes!"


'Gram of the Week (1/31/11 - 2/6/11)

(ONE of the reasons why I get a little anxious when they order a policeman singing telegram.)

The girls were all gathering in Pompton Plains, NJ to celebrate the 40th Birthday of one of their own. "She's a police dispatcher," they told me. "It would be perfect for her."

What they neglected to tell me was that her husband was the Chief of Police in a nearby town.

Originally, they had preferred I arrive toward the earlier part of the evening. But a very busy Friday and their calling last-minute dictated it be done at the end of their evening, around dessert.

It's late. I troll up and down the block slowly, trying to find the house number because many residents already had their lights off for the evening. I finally pull up in front of the house at 11:00 PM . At that point, I'm vaguely aware of another car pulling up directly behind me. I do my last-minute review of the song, put on my cop "costume" , and step out of the car.

Immediately, the police lights on top of the car behind me, go on.

Generally, I'm a pretty fearless guy, but I came damn close to needing a change of clothes!

"Is there a problem, officer?", the voice from the car respectfully bellowed. My intuition told me that he saw me as a friend, not as a foe. Despite that, I still couldn't help the knees knocking.

"No, I'm doing a singing telegram for someone inside that house," I replied.

"What!" (I could sense the incredulity of his response)

"Yeah, I'm doing a singing telegram for this woman who's a police dispatcher or something."

"That's my wife!" Suddenly, I could feel the breaking bonds of brotherhood trust disintegrating before my eyes. He thought I was a stripper (it was too dark to get a good look at me!)

"No, no, I'm serious. It's just a singing telegram. Come in with me, I'll show you."

He declined and waited outside for me to finish. I'll bet he timed me,, too! I didn't want to linger too long inside for fear he would think I was pulling something over on him.

Fastest telegram I ever delivered!


'Gram of the Week (1/24/11 - 1/30/11)

Bronwyn's folks live in Dubai, one of the seven emirates of the United Arab Emirates. Her Dad is a self-employed HR consultant there. Bronwyn is a young actress-in-training, attending the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute in NYC. Dad asked if we could deliver a singing gorilla in a tutu at the Institute for his daughter's Birthday.

Despite the fun and festive nature that defines a singing telegram, I made the assumption that the school may have some misgivings about a gorilla walking into class to "interrupt" for five minutes. I called the school the day before to get clearance and was not surprised when they told me they had to think about it. At the end of the day, I called back to say I hadn't heard and I needed to let my client know.

They begrudgingly allowed it, but gave me a list of conditions that had to be met and insisted it be done at the very beginning of a dance class. I made sure I was there a half-hour early. They scooted me away into the Strasberg Library, a small, musty-smelling, stifling room (foreshadowing?).

Class started at 9:00 AM. By 9:15, I was still waiting. I ventured out to see if they had forgotten me and was told the teacher hadn't arrived yet. I suggested that I do the telegram now, since I'd be done by the time the teacher arrived, but they wouldn't hear of it.

Finally they escorted me up to the room, whereupon I walked in and sang to Bronwyn. The teacher scowled at me the whole time and the Birthday girl understandably sensed her disapproval and kept apologizing.

I felt badly for Bronwyn and wanted to tell her that there is a difference between being SERIOUS and being SOLEMN. I hope the Institute doesn't teach actors to be SOLEMN about their craft. You should be serious about your work as an artist, but there's no room for solemnity.

Theatre is about entertaining and having fun.


'Gram of the Week (1/17/11 - 1/23/11)

Small world!

The man called inquiring about sending his Mother a singing telegram for her 80th Birthday. He asked a lot of questions and was insistent that the messenger could sing very well, because his family was a musical family and they were going to be overly-critical of the performance.

I assured him we were professional and that he, his Mother, and his family would enjoy the personalized song that we wrote in honor of the Birthday girl.

I started gathering information and though I was singing to Mom, the son spent a great deal of time talking more about the volunteer work his father did. Somewhere through the fog of writing the information down, I began to focus on exactly WHAT the volunteer work was that his father did.

For years his Dad has volunteered at a local hospital, bringing candy and ice cream to the sick children; trying to make their days a little brighter. I stopped writing to look again at the last name of the woman to whom I'd be singing: Oshinsky.

I asked him, "Is your father MIKE Oshinsky, from Valley Stream?"

The son hesitated and replied, "yes he is"

"And he volunteers at Schneider's Childrens Hospital?", I continued.

"Uh.........yes", was the reply

I knew his father very well. My daughter was a patient there for three years, having been diagnosed with ALL in late-2002. By the time she was discharged, there was no proper way to thank everyone at the hospital for what they did for all of these sick children. My daughter always looked forward to his visits and Mike always let her have an extra Italian Ice because she's allergic to chocolate.

"I know your dad and he's an angel from God! I will personally deliver this telegram", I said.

My wife and I made up a basket of gifts for both the Birthday Girl AND her husband.

Upon delivery, it took a little jarring of the memory ( after all, it had been some five/six years since we had seen each other), but Mike finally remembered our daughter and my wife ( "Yeah, she's an artist! She does calligraphy and draws a comic strip!", he said).

The Japanese Buddhists call it MYOHO; that which cannot be explained.

Oh, yeah...........BTW, the family loved the telegram. They asked me to stay for dinner at the restaurant!


'Gram of the Week (1/10/11 - 1/16/11)

Jessica's 27th Birthday!

Jessica is a practical joker. Jessica is part of the RickRoll trend, where she sends URL links during Power Point presentations, only to have someone unsuspectingly click on the link and have Rick Astley pop up and croon away to "Never Gonna Give You Up".

Her sister, Vanessa, saw the perfect opportunity to "get even" and do a live "Rick Roll" for Jessica's Birthday this week, ON the job, and in front of EVERYONE she's "Rolled".


For the very first Live Rick Roll that started the trend, click here: Real Life Rick Roll


'Gram of the Week (1/3/11-1/9/11)

Nice way to start off the New Year. I remembered telling someone once that this job affords me an opportunity to glimpse into the worlds of many different cultures that exist in the Metro New York area, that outsiders rarely get to see. One such "world" is the Hasidic community; a strictly orthodox Jewish sect that live in the environs of various Brooklyn neighborhoods ( Williamsburg, Crown Heights, Borough Park, Flatbush, etc), as well as certain areas of Rockland County ( Monsey).

Over the years, I have developed a good reputation with this community, since I now know, understand, and respect their specific needs: only males can sing, you can never touch the women, the men and women sit separated by a partition, etc)

This particular delivery took me three hours northwest to the foot of the Catskills, to the Lake House Hotel, where Tatty and Mammy Jackobwitz of Williamsburg, had gathered their large kinderlekh to ring in the New Year.

Normally, that is beyond my delivery area, but one of their children is a good customer of mine; using me frequently for Birthdays and Sheva Brochos ( the weeklong celebrations after a wedding). Timing is everything. It was a Sunday evening, usually not a busy time, so I schlepped the three hours up to the Catskills to thank Tatty and Mammy for throwing this big bash, mentioning all the things for which the children are grateful.

This group, more than any other, tend to always order a singing clown. That requires a bit of time and make-up application. So there I was, in the Men's room of the Lake House Hotel, which does not possess a mirror! The woman who ordered the telegram, told me just to go into the Women's room if I needed to use a mirror.

Right! Just what the orthodox community needs; having one of the unprepared female guests, walk into the Ladies Room to use the facilities, only to find some goyim ( non-Jewish person) in there applying make-up. My whole life flashed before me: "But officer, I had to put my make-up on!"

I decided to tough it out and used the reflection off of the paper towel dispenser in the Men's Room.

The delivery went very well. I guess the make-up looked OK (I had no way of knowing!). Before heading back home, I had to take the make-up off (which is a heckuva lot easier than putting on!). Like the Pied Piper of Hamlin, all the grandkids ( approx 12 of them) followed me right into the Men's Room to watch me; boys AND girls! AND THEY WOULDN'T LEAVE! And I had to use the bathroom, but they didn't care. They just laughed and hooped and hollered.

I guess one of the adults heard the commotion, because once he stuck his head in the bathroom door and yelled out something in Yiddish, they scattered, allowing me to complete my business and drive the three hours-plus back home!


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Valentine's Day -- 2011

We're baaaaaaaaack!

....and with a vengeance, it seems. It was a very successful Valentine's Day for 2011; doubled the amount of deliveries from last year! Last year, Valentine's Day was on a Sunday and right before the President's Day, which fell on February 15th last year, so the pickings were slim.

Rick Rolls were big this year. Many people opted out from the usual personalization of our telegrams to instead have a messenger clad in red heart or a gorilla/heart sing the immortal words of Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up". Really quite appropriate for Valentine's Day ( if you ask me!)

Thanks to all my messengers, thanks to my customers, and thanks for the relatively "balmy" weather.


Singing Telegrams vs. The Economy

I've always considered my business a bellwether of the economy. Over the 30 years I've been in business, the tenor of the economic times was mirrored in the amount of deliveries I did. And it usually was a leading indicator. When times were tight, singing telegrams trickled to a precious few and when things were robust, the phones wouldn't stop ringing.

The "worm has turned". The economy is on an upswing. After two years of being relatively slow in comparison to previous years, orders have picked up considerably.


Well that was a long coffee break!

(so full of energy with big plans, take a "coffee break", and BOOM! -- Two years go by without a peep)

Time to get back to posting. So much to recount of the daily tuneful songs delivered and making lives a little happier.

I think if I ever had to declare what my mission statement is, that would be it:

Contributing to world peace through song; one telegram at a time!

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