Thursday, August 25, 2011

'Gram of the Week (5/30/11 - 6/5/11)


John's back! John is the manager of a local strip club on Long Island ( see my March 10, 2009 entry for an earlier Valentine's Day story).

"Kerry, will you go to Atlantic City this Friday night?"

"John, it's Wednesday! I need more notice. That's a 3 1/2 hour drive down and a 3 1/2 hour drive back!"

"Well, technically," he says, "late-Thursday night after midnight is Friday, so can you go down tomorrow night after midnight?"

"You want me to deliver after midnight? What is she, a stripper?"

(dramatic pause) "Yeah," John says.

<aw jeeze>......."Alright," I said, "Let me clear it with the club and make sure it's cool for a chicken to sing onstage with a bunch of strippers. There might be rules against that!"

I called the club manager, who couldn't believe what I wanted to do. He didn't even know it was the girl's Birthday. But he was pretty excited about it. He told me to give him a head's up call when I'm about half hour away and he'll make sure she's dancing onstage.

So I call John back to tell him he couldn't afford what I need for this job, because it's at least a seven hour drive round-trip and more than half of that time is after midnight. I wouldn't get back to Long Island until about 4:30 AM.

John doesn't flinch at the price and then offers that he's going to come down to Atlantic City to see it; not because he doesn't trust me. No, he really wants to see the look on her face when a chicken is singing to her in the middle of her dance.

John ends up leaving for Atlantic City about two hours before me and is calling me constantly on my cell phone, giving me traffic updates; my own personal Shadow Traffic report!

I arrive in Atlantic City around 11:30 PM and stop at a Dunkin' Donuts for coffee. I haven't been there since the late-70's, when my wife and I were in college and she was doing summer stock just outside of Atlantic City and it was just beginning it's renaissance. My, my, my -- how the place has changed! But still, one block away from all the glamour and glitz , it's still pretty seedy.

I call the club; they're all ready for me. "Come on down!" the manager says. "Everybody's here!"

When I arrive, it's like a welcoming committee. The music stops and I step out onto the stage. It wasn't exactly like the singing telegram in the Jeff Bridges film, "The Fisher King", but you could hear the proverbial pin drop. Nikki and I are all alone on stage.

Suddenly, Nikki becomes very aware that she's naked. I'm singing to her, and she's trying to cover herself with her arms. Nowhere to run. I'm blocking the only exit she has. I take my sweet time singing, even grabbed the pole at one point and twirled around it. Some drunk patron took a wad of dollar bills and stuffed it into my chicken costume!

It was all over way too soon for my liking. Of course, for Nikki, it was an eternity. The club erupts with everyone hootin' and hollerin' and singing Happy Birthday to Nikki.

And it wouldn't be proper to leave without hugging the Birthday girl; something I ALWAYS do! I'm sure it felt just as good for her, as it did for me. At least she was covered now!

John's sitting with his bucket of beer bottles on ice, grinning ear-to-ear, enjoying the whole thing. I change quickly and go back in to say goodbye to John, who gives me a nice fat tip to boot; icing on the cake!

I arrive back on Long Island, just as the sun is rising in the was so surreal. You couldn't wipe that smile off my face for days!


'Gram of the Week (5/23/11 - 5/29/11)


Chadwick (how's that for a name?)......sounds like entitlement, like Thurston Howell III, but Chadwick is from Arkansas and he's a terrific, down-to-earth kind of guy. He just made one mistake a couple of years ago. He followed some young gal up to New York from Arkansas and then promptly got arrested for a DWI.

Not too long after that, the relationship went south. But not Chad. He had to remain here, on probation and couldn't go anywhere. So he made good use of his time by working hard and completing his college education in Brooklyn.

His good friend, James, back in Arkansas, sent a congratulatory telegram of a singing cow, now that the probation period had expired, leaving Chadwick to go wherever his wanderlust would take him. Apparently, the reference to the cow has to do with some unprintable college prank Chad pulled back home in Arkansas.

Most people will add on balloons or flowers with the singing telegram. But not James. His warped sense of Arkansas humor deemed it necessary to add a a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black to the delivery.

A little of the hair of the dog that bit him!


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

"Gram of the Week (5/16/11 - 5/22/11)


And sometimes things don't go exactly as planned. Sean's Mom and Dad are divorced....VERY divorced. Apparently they don't speak to one another, so communication is a huge issue both among the family and I would assume anyone who interacts with me. Sean's up here in New York with Dad while Mom is down in Florida on vacation. He just graduated from Boston University and it's his Birthday.

Mom wanted to surprise him with a Rapping Gorilla at his father's house early in the morning before he got up and started his day. Sean's sister was also going to be at the house and knew I was coming (we always have to have a contact person if the sender is not going to be at the delivery site).

So that begs the question; Why did the door go unanswered early on a Tuesday morning in May in the middle of a torrential rainstorm on Long Island? It was pouring out....I rang the doorbell....I knocked....I pounded....I called every number on my cell phone.....nothing.

I could even hear the dog barking loudly inside. Sean, his sister, and his father were home. All the cars were out front. I go back to my car and call Mom in Florida, who tried to tell me I must be at the wrong house, because she spoke to her son some 30 minutes earlier. "Try again", she said.

Remember, I'm dressed in a full-bodied gorilla costume, with black leather jacket, bling, and a Yankee baseball cap...and the rain is teeming. barking....rinse....repeat.....Nothing. Nada. ZIP.

I'm soaked.....the telegram in my hand is saturated. The ink has run on the paper. 20 minutes of this. I'm beginning to think I must be a masochist to endure anymore. Sean is clearly not coming to the door or they're all dead!

Completely flummoxed and frustrated, I start to walk back to the car, when the front door opens. Dad is standing there in t-shirt and shorts, soaked in sweat, and breathing heavy. "What the hell's going on?" he yells. "I'm downstairs working out, the dogs are barking, and my daughter has been screaming for 20 minutes to get the g-d damned door!"

Suddenly, I get very calm. I take the gorilla head mask off (it had been on the whole time) and ask to see Sean. "He's in the shower", he barks.

I tell him I have a singing telegram for Sean for his Birthday, sent from his Mother, and that Sean's sister knew I was coming, having arranged it with her Mom the day before. I see the disgust in his face every time I mention his ex-wife.

"It's pouring out....I'm soaked....Do you mind if I wait inside by the door here until Sean gets out of the shower?", I politely inquire.

"Yes I DO mind..... I don't know you. I don't know who you are."

"But your daughter DOES!" She helped arrange this with your ex-wife. Can't you call her down?"

"My ex-wife is crazy!", he said

I took a leap. "It's a pity you got divorced; You deserve each other. Tell Sean his Mom says 'Happy Birthday' ", I replied. You gotta draw the line somewhere.

And I turned and swam back to the car.



Sunday, August 21, 2011

'Gram of the Week (5/9/11 - 5/15/11)

(I should've just asked for Dinner for Two, instead!)

Had I known, that's exactly what I would have asked for! For the unfamiliar, the Zagat restaurant survey rates restaurants based on diners' reviews. They rate the food, decor, service, and cost based on a 30-point rating system and often include witty, pithy comments by the wanna-be restaurant critic, who lurks within all of us. According to Zagat's, the average cost to dine at Per Se Restaurant in Columbus Circle, in New York City, is $300........per person!

I received an email from their California corporate office, The French Laundry, where Chef Thomas Keller's restaurant group is located. Per Se had just been awarded "Outstanding Service" from the 2011 James Beard Foundation's Restaurant and Chef Awards and they were being sent a congratulatory greeting from the Left Coast.

I was to sing to the staff, who gather for the evening's instructions, just before the doors opened for dinner, highlighting a few names of those that made the award possible. I had suggested a singing chef, but the corporate office opted for the tuxedo instead. I wrote the song to "Food, Glorious Food", from the musical "Oliver" and was politely received with "golf claps"!

I left with some "parting gifts" -- Per Se chocolates, which I promptly scarfed down, as soon as I left the building. But lieu of payment, definitely, I should have just asked them for "dinner for two" as compensation for my efforts!

(sung to the tune of "Food, Glorious Food")

It can't be ignored
So Congratulations
You won the award
From the James Beard Foundation

No restaurant deserves it more
How could you be nervous
Since Per Se won it for
"The Best Service" !

Just look at this team
There's not a bunch sweller
You went to extremes
So thank you, Chef Keller

For giving Per Se the keys
That's part of the plan
And it was Laura
Who let you drive
As fast as you can!...................


Friday, August 19, 2011

"Friday" Parody- Adelphi Cabaret, May 6th and 7th, 2011

Aside from running a full-time singing telegram company, I am also an adjunct professor at Adelphi University in the Theatre Department and the General Education Department. I teach Mechanics of Voice to the incoming Freshmen Theatre majors, as well as a First Year Seminar on Songs and Song Writing to the general freshmen population at large.

I also direct one or two productions a year. This spring, I was asked to be musical director for the cabaret. Adelphi cabarets are a 40-year tradition at Adelphi. They are kind of like Saturday Night Live skits with musical numbers. Sometimes they are original songs, written specifically for the show, and sometimes musical parodies; send-ups of popular show tunes or Top 40.

This year's cabaret was called "Walkie Talkie to Wi-Fi" or MOdernn technoLugY and the Dumbbing DoWn of AmeriKah LOL" (sic). It was directed by Kelley Lynn, a very funny comedienne, writer, and stand-up comedy teacher.

As we were writing material for the Cabaret, Rebecca Black was hitting the charts with her insipid, tedious, pedestrian, but CATCHY tune called "Friday". As a musical composer, that song broke all the rules on what NOT to do for music writing and as a father of a 16-year old, I felt sorry for the abuse, vitriol, and hate that was undeservingly heaped upon this young girl. It takes guts to endure that maltreatment. I wanted to write a parody of that song in the show, but needed a subject.

If you've been paying attention, you know that May 21st was the day chosen as the Rapture by "prophet" Harold Camping. I felt compelled to write a song about the upcoming Rapture, with complete confidence that we would all still be here on Sunday, May 22nd. I used Rebecca Black's "Friday" as my template.

Below is the Youtube clip of the cabaret dress rehearsal the night before we opened.

Funny thing is, some people thought it was serious and that we were some kind of fundamentalist, evangelical group crowing about the End Times!

The Rapture. Lyrics are below.

May 21st, waking up that morning
Gotta be fresh, gotta be prepared
Gotta have my purse and
some clean underwear
Time's runnin' out, the horn's a-blowin'
Right before your eyes we'll be disappearing
Gotta get down to the bus stop
Gotta check the bus, I won't see my friends

No one in the front seat
No one in the back seat
Gotta make your mind up
Don't be left behind

It's Rapture, Rapture
All the good souls get captured
Everybody's lookin' forward to that
Rapture weekend
Rapture, Rapture
It's not a load of crap, sir
Everybody's lookin' forward to the Rapture

Vanishing, Vanishing (Yeah)
Vanishing, Vanishing (Yeah)
Death, death, death -- fun !
Lookin' forward to the End Times

7:30, I'll be drivin' on the highway
I'll disappear from behind the wheel
Float, float, I'm gonna float
Naked as a jaybird
Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus
Catholics will all die
Too late to save your soul
Now you know it

Sittin' by His right hand
Sittin' by His left hand
Put your head between your legs
Kiss your ass goodbye!

It's D-Day, D-Day
"When you'll no longer be"-Day
Everybody's lookin' forward to that
Rapture weekend
D-Day, D-Day
That's your R.I.P.-Day
Everybody's lookin' forward to the Rapture

Vanishing, Vanishing (Yeah)
Vanishing, Vanishing (Yeah)
Death, death, death -- fun !
Lookin' forward to the End Times

Time to shut your trap, sir (trap, sir)
This May i-is Rapture (Rapture)
Me-me-me so excited
Me so excited
Me gonna disappear that day

Soon it will be Judgement Day
Then Rapture comes after...wards
Can't wait for life on Earth to end!

End Times -- It's time for Revelation
The train is pulling from the station
Your choice, rejoice, where will you dwell?
Up in Heaven or the fires of Hell
Watch out! They're talking kinda cryptic
Mark of the Beast -- apocalyptic
Made His list and checked it twice
Who's been naughty and who's been nice?

It's Rapture, Rapture
All the good souls get captured
Everybody's lookin' forward to that
Rapture weekend
Rapture, Rapture
It's not a load of crap, sir
Everybody's lookin' forward to the Rapture

Vanishing, Vanishing (Yeah)
Vanishing, Vanishing (Yeah)
Death, death, death -- fun !
Lookin' forward to the End Times

It's D-Day, D-Day
"When you'll no longer be"-Day
Everybody's lookin' forward to that
Rapture weekend
D-Day, D-Day
That's your R.I.P.-Day
Everybody's lookin' forward to the Rapture

Vanishing, Vanishing (Yeah)
Vanishing, Vanishing (Yeah)
Death, death, death -- fun !
Looking forward to the end Times!


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

'Gram of the Week (5/2/11 - 5/8/11)

συγχαρητήρια Δέσποινα!

That's Greek for "Congratulations, Despina!"

Despina and her friends form a small group of young Greek women and their families, who have been using me for various occasions for years. They reside along the Northern area of Queens....Whitestone, Bayside, Astoria.

It's always a blast to sing at any of their events, because they're usually held at one of the many Greek restaurants that dot the area. You feel as if you're transported back to another time and place, with the food, the music, and the language.

The "Americanization" of these young women has got to be tough on the families; especially the overprotective Dads, brothers, and male cousins. The girls tend to be a little wild through their late-teens and early-twenties, but they eventually come back to embracing their old world customs, given the frequent trips back "home" to Athens and Mykonos.

The celebration for Despina was because she had just passed her Bar Exam. She likens herself to a modern-day Elle Woods from "Legally Blonde": she dresses to impress, she picks her favorite team by the color of their uniform (and how the guys look in them!), and she insists on Five-Star treatment wherever she goes (Cancun, Atlantic City, etc.)

One night in Cancun, she had a little too much to drink and spent about an hour trying to get into her hotel room with her credit card and couldn't understand why it wasn't working!

"Elvis" was called upon to sing the congratulatory song. I always write the Elvis-grams to the tune of "Jailhouse Rock". But the hilarity ensued when I walked into the restaurant, the Greek band was playing.....drums, keyboards, guitar, and a bouzouki! I politely waited until they were finished and started my song.

Usually I warn bands in restaurants that they shouldn't accompany me because I take a lot of liberties with the songs and they throw me off while they try to find the right key. This group "attempted" to play behind me.

There's something very endearing about an Elvis singing telegram, singing to the tune of "Jailhouse Rock" in a Greek restaurant, accompanied by a bouzouki!

Multiculturalism at it's finest.



Tuesday, August 16, 2011

'Gram of the Week (4/25/11 - 5/1/11)

Will. You. Go. To. Prom. With. Me.

There is a song my daughter downloaded recently from iTunes. It's called "Will You Go To Prom With Me?" by the group's sung in a kind of a death-metal, neanderthal-style, where the singer is barking out his request. It's even kind of catchy after awhile....anyway....

Ryan wanted to ask his girlfriend, Sammy, to the Jericho High School Senior Prom. They've been "dating" since Middle School and you'd think it would be a lock. But "Shmu Bear" was mortified when a tuxedo-clad Marty showed up to ask her to the prom on Ryan's behalf. It was at her home and she was surrounded by family, yet you would have thought this was the most egregious thing anyone could have done to her......she refused to come downstairs (apparently, she had just washed her hair).

What's the big beef about? WE'RE the ones singing, for crying out loud.....maybe it was the acknowledgment of how she's addicted to her Blackberry, the fact that she can fall asleep on command, or that she gets her nails done at Venus every Friday afternoon!

I mean, she'll be attending University of Florida/Gainsville in the fall...isn't that among the top ten Party Schools in the nation? You'd think she'd want to get some practice in before it becomes official!



Monday, August 15, 2011

'Gram of the Week (4/18/11 - 4/24/11)

Ethel turned 95 this week. I have sung to Ethel on two other occasions. Her daughter called me from Anchorage, Alaska to tell me that this will probably be her Mom's last Birthday. She's confined to a wheelchair and residing at a nursing home on Long Island.

Seeing as how I've already exhausted all there is to say about Ethel in the two previous personalized songs, the family just wanted me to come in and sing songs from her era, the 1930's - 1940's.

I happily obliged and hit the internet to find a handful of songs that I could sing. The family told me not to worry about being specific, because Mom probably wouldn't notice anyway, but I was compelled; it's the least I could do.

I chose five songs to sing: "Zing! Went The Strings Of My Heart", "Night and Day", "For Me And My Gal", "Oh What A Beautiful Morning", and "When You Wish Upon A Star".

Well, cut off my legs and call me Shorty! Ethel not only remembered me, but she sang right along with me...EVERY song...... and she knew EVERY lyric. Her family, who had gathered 'round, could only stand with their mouths agape.

They might want to put in an early reservation for next April, when Ethel turns 96!


Sunday, August 14, 2011

'Gram of the Week (4/11/11 - 4/17/11)


It's the Peluso's vs. the Brennan's. Once Terry (a Brennan) married Lou (a Peluso), the battle was on over which family was better; the Peulso's root for the Mets and watch "Survivor", while the Brennan's like the Yankees and "Modern Family", one family had Irish roots, the other Italian......Their last battle was Christmas Eve and the Brennan's were victorious at THAT confrontation....this time it was Sunday brunch at the 56th Fighter Squadron in Farmingdale. About 40 members of both families were gathered. Appropriately dressed in their team baseball caps and family "colors", the Brennan's were behind hiring me for the "entertainment". I was dressed as a chef and came out of the kitchen to stir up the pot with the Peluso's, claiming they were animals who disrespected my food. Once I started comparing them to the well-behaved Brennan's, THAT's when the hootin' and hollerin' began. The Brennan's were throwing it down and claiming they would prevail once again.

The biggest insult of all -- the song I chose to write to for the Italian Peluso's was "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling", in honor of the Brennan's!

Hey, I know I'm supposed to be the dispassionate observer, but......I AM Irish!


Saturday, August 13, 2011

'Gram of the Week (4/4/11 - 4/10/11)

Elfayed is the manager of a 99¢ store in Uniondale, NY. Born on a farm near the Nile Delta, Elfayed is an Egyptian journalist for a leftist publication back in his home country. These past few months, there has been a flurry of activity in the Arab world, that started with Tunisia, then escalated to Egypt, Yemen, Syria, and beyond. The President of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak resigned two months earlier in mid-February.

Having just returned from a family reunion in Egypt, Elfayed has been writing furiously about these events, while trying to manage the store and tend to his family here in the States. He's safe here, but he wants to be part of the action. The internet allows him the immediacy of the news, while maintaining a safe, protective distance.

His wife, Edie, looking for a little distraction on his Birthday, ordered a chicken to show up and sing about how his ambition is to be an "interrupter" for the United Nations! Also, he almost flubbed his immigration interview when he insisted that Cream of Mushroom was his wife's favorite "soap".....uhhhhhhh, that's "soup", Elfayed!

Unless his wife feels that Cream of Mushroom leaves her skin feeling softer than Dove, Caress, or Irish Spring. "Manly, yes, but I like it, too!"


'Gram of the Week (3/28/11 - 4/3/11)

The Orthodox Jewish community in Williamsburg, Brooklyn is fixated on one costume and one costume only; the clown! Maybe it has to do with Purim...... I don't know. Birthdays....Anniversaries....Sheva name it...just the clown! And because their Sabbath ends at sundown on Saturday, their parties generally don't start until fairly late; 9:30...10:00 PM......there is always much joy, laughter, and high energy.

Dinah turned 19. She is engaged to marry Lazer very soon. Her future in-laws wanted to welcome her into the family in a singularly unique way.........the clown! Because I'm coming from another delivery, I can't put my make-up on until I get to the location......The street is pretty well-lit, so I put the make-up on IN the car.....the neighborhood is also very active with many festivities going on after sundown and many children are running around in the street....they flock to me like a magnet. Boys all dressed alike in white shirt, black pants, and payess (hair hanging down the side in ringlets) and girls modestly dressed in long skirts, long sleeves, and high necklines. They lean on my car, dirty hands pressed against the window, peering in while I apply my make-up, whispering in Yiddish to each other.

Though born and raised here in New York City, their English is not very good and they have a decidedly distinct five years of High School German allows me to pick up some words, given that Yiddish is a German dialect with words from Hebrew. One enterprising young boy knows enough to ask me for a "card", meaning a business card.......well, once I hand one out, all the rest of the crew want a card of their very own. Hands are thrust into my face as they say, "A card! Give me a card!" I quickly exhaust my supply.

They are fascinated with this "goy" from outside of their community. I "milk" the makeup session, taking my time applying the make-up, waiting for the call on my cell phone, signaling the coast is clear and to come in and sing to Dinah.

Ten minutes after I sing, I'm back at my car. The kids are nowhere to be found. And if weren't for the smudgy fingerprints all over my window, you would have never known they were there in the first place.



Thursday, August 11, 2011

'Gram of the Week (3/21/11 - 3/27/11)

Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS)...Stamford, CT..........on the outside, you'd think it's just another stuffy investment/banking firm, but on the inside, they really know how to let their hair's Kraig's Birthday, so of all the costumes in my repertoire, some bright, young, enterprising lass decided Winnie The Pooh would suit Kraig best!

Usually, there's some kind of connection to the costume choice. I'm not sure of the appeal, but I suppose it was more outrageous than a chicken, pink gorilla, or full-bodied black gorilla in a tutu.

All Kraig could do was put his hand over his eyes, grin, and bear it.

"Should auld acquaintance be forgot", INDEED!


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Okay, okay.....another hiccup

Sometimes life gets in the get distracted and then it's, "Well, I'll just blog tomorrow"........and tomorrow becomes "the weekend".......then "next week" "next month"...and before you know it five months go by! I have all these stories and "Grams of the Week" piled up...this stuff is too good NOT to blog about.

And with that, I resume.

Picking up from where I left off...... I'll blog daily, adding a "Gram of the Week" each day until I'm caught up.


'Gram of the Week (3/14/11 - 3/20/11)

Lauren's 23; young, single, and Jewish. Maybe Mom should have thought twice before sending a singing gorilla to her apartment on the Upper West Side just before sundown on the Sabbath. Lauren's friends knew we were coming, but they hadn't arrived at her apartment yet. I thought she was going to have a heart attack. So I ended up singing in the hallway, because she wouldn't let me in. Now everyone on the sixth floor knows Lauren's deepest, darkest secrets!