Tuesday, September 27, 2011

'Gram of the Week (9/12/11 - 9/18/11)


Mary Johnson was a nun for over 20 years. With the chosen name of Sister Donata, she worked in the
Missionaries of Charity congregation with Mother Teresa in Calcutta.

The operative word here is "was". She is no longer a nun. Having left the order, she came back to the States and wrote a book called "An Unquenchable Thirst: Following Mother Teresa in Search of Love, Service, and an Authentic Life".

The book, published by Random House, was scheduled to hit the market on Tuesday. Her story is in the October issue of O Magazine, with Oprah and Rosie O'Donnell on the cover.

What better way to celebrate and thank Mary's publisher and her agent by sending a singing nun to sing a congratulatory/thank you telegram from a former nun. (what's with all the singing nuns lately?)

Dan Conaway is Mary's agent. He nixed the idea of Mary's original sub-title for the book, which was "Mother Teresa Wasn't Always Pleased With Me". There was also some private joke in there involving Copernicus, when he awoke from his coma after someone placed a published copy of his "De Revolutionibus" in his hands, took his last breath, and died!

From there I went to Random House to sing to a group of editors, publicists, audio book producers, and their assistants -- all of whom tried their very best to take in the sight of a singing nun, congratulating them and thanking them for all the work they did to make Mary's book possible. I was a big hit all around.

Loved collaborating with Mary on this. The only unanswered question is "Who will play her in the movie?" She suggested that I should, given that I was so convincing in my habit. But I'm thinking more along the lines of Debra Winger, or her heir apparent!


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

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


This week will go down as being more interesting for the deliveries that didn't happen, as opposed to the ones that did.

On Monday, a woman called me to inquire about a delivery at a hospital in NYC for someone who had minor surgery. Each hospital has its own policy regarding deliveries, as well as what costumes are permitted. It's always best to check beforehand. Most hospitals DO allow singing telegrams, but generally limit delivery time to visting hours. Some restrict balloons and very often "suggest" that anything loud and outrageous be toned down. So even gorillas and chickens pass the smell test.

But this woman had asked about a grim reaper! A grim reaper?" Really? "A grim reaper at a hospital?"

"Why not?", was her reply.

"Maybe the fact that some people go into a hospital but don't come out. I think it would be alarming to have the grim reaper share an elevator with a relative of a recently deceased person....not to mention it's really in poor taste and inappropriate. I am
sure the hospital won't allow it. And even if they did, I wouldn't be interested in doing this delivery for you."

"But you're in the service industry!" she snapped.

"Yes, I am," I replied, "but I have certain guidelines that have to be met. A delivery like this could prove to be hurtful to someone, just by an unintentional meeting. And that's not the kind of business I run. I can't fill the request that would result in your satisfaction."

"Well!" she clearly was clueless and exasperated by my response. Then she hung up.

I'm guessing she got someone else somewhere to fill her request. As I like to say, "wouldn't wanna touch
that karma with a ten-foot pole!"

My second
non-delivery started out as a delivery. A secretary called on behalf of her boss to order a Get Well singing telegram for her boss's partner, who was home recovering from being hit by a car while bicycling. At first she asked for a rabbi, because the partner was Jewish. After being told it's not on the costume list and suggesting the man might be offended, she opted for a singing nun, because her boss was Catholic. She claimed her boss approved it. I kept asking to speak to her boss to help clarify the order, but she said he was too busy to talk and she was authorized to do the ordering, which she did, using his corporate credit card.

The delivery was to take place the next day, between 1:00 - 2:00 PM. The next day at 12:36 PM, 24 minutes before the delivery is to take place and ten minutes away from arriving at the house of the recipient, Dina calls to say her boss wishes to cancel the telegram because HE thinks the nun is inappropriate and offensive.

"But you
ordered it yesterday, fully cognizant of it being a nun, specifically because I didn't have a rabbi."

"Well, my boss changed his mind and no longer wants it." she said.

I told her she could change the costume, but couldn't cancel the delivery because I need 48 hour's notice and she's only giving me 20 minutes. I'd be happy to redeliver with another costume later that day, but she wasn't budging.

"This is not a shirt you can return to Macy's!" I said. "Let me talk to your boss"

Again, with the "He's too busy to talk to you. I'm authorized on his behalf to make the decision."

I should have just said that it was too late, I couldn't get hold of the messenger in time, and left it at that. Instead, I headed to my next delivery. Within four days, I got a letter from American Express with an attached letter from Dina's boss saying he was disputing the charge with all sorts of made-up excuses that made me look like I run a business that could get a Triple F rating from the Better Business Bureau. (30 years of great customer service being thrown down the drain!).

Thankfully, I have all the calls and time-stamps on record, as well as
every page of my website showing the cancelation policy clearly stated. Over the course of the 30 years I've been in business, there have been about four disputes over charges and each time American Express has sided with me 100%, without even having to make a partial refund.

What's ironic is that in each case, specific to the delivery, there is something the customer could have said that would have left me defenseless. Of course that "reason" would have been a lie, but nevertheless, I would have no choice but to refund the money to the customer. (For reasons you can understand, I'll elect not to disclose it.)

So now, having submitted my data to American Express, I await the resolution which I expect to be in my favor. I'd much rather be concentrating on making someone's day a little happier!


Monday, September 19, 2011

'Gram of the Week (8/29/11 - 9/4/11)


Tiffany loves her brother...dearly. She's the baby sister of the Safavieh rug and furniture store family that dominates the home furnishings industry. Their headquarters and warehouse are on Long Island in Port Washington, NY. Tiffany's also a little bit nervous.

It was her brother's Birthday and she called me that morning to do something for the afternoon. She kept calling back to change the costume at least a half-a-dozen times. Then the bombshell hit when she said her brother was going into Manhattan for a meeting, but was coming back out at the end of the work day. I was a little skeptical because, he lives in Manhattan, it IS his Birthday, so why would he come back out to the warehouse if he left early to go into the city? And my policy is that I need 48 hours notice for cancelation, so it couldn't be canceled. I'd be happy to re-deliver, but if he wasn't going to be there, why waste everybody's time? She insisted he would be there.

The last costume change was from a Rapping Gorilla to a Mick Jagger/Ozzy Osbourn-type rock star. The problem was that the rap had already been written and there was no time to re-write it, so the rock star was going to rap out the Birthday song.

Complicating things was that I had House Seats to see "War Horse" on Broadway that night and I was taking my daughter to see it, so we had to be there by a specific time. Tiffany kept calling me as I was driving to the delivery, giving me traffic updates as to where her brother was as he headed back to the warehouse. As I pulled into the parking lot , Tiffany calls me, very nervous that Jonathan will see me upon his arrival. It's a huge parking lot and I told her that unless he was specifically looking for a surprise, and based on where I was parked, it was highly unlikely Jonathan would spot me. And that's exactly what happened. Jonathan arrived and went straight into the building.

Tiffany decides to come down to the car to give me more last-minute instructions. It was then I got to meet her face-to-face and she got to see me sitting in the car with a 16 year old! I offered no explanation and Molly just smiled and waved to her. It was the first time all day that she was speechless.

But she quickly recovered and started to give me the scenario about how I should wear my costume and that maybe I shouldn't wear the spiky-haired 80's glam-rock wig I wear for such deliveries. I finally had to stop her and say, "Tiffany, please let me do my job. I know exactly what to do."

With that, I walked into the showroom/warehouse and started talking very loudly about how I was a rock manager and needed to furnish my airplane with Safavieh carpets, talking in a really bad over-the-top cockney accent. When Jonathan turned the corner, he didn't know what to make of me. I then told him I was the lead singer of a Rolling Stone cover band called, "Gathers No Moss" and that I heard it was his Birthday, so the boys and I wrote a little ditty and rapped it.

Jonathan just beamed from ear-to-ear. He told his sister it was the best gift he had ever been given (I don't think that was hyperbole!), and baby sister Tiffany was pleased. She was so pleased, that she called me about four more times on my way into Manhattan to tell me what a great job I did and that her brother can't stop talking about it. "Thank you, thank you, thank you," she said. "You were right".

(a la rapping style)

Let's celebrate, you're 28, knock me off my kiester
You're such a macho guy and yet you're a big fashionista
You're into bath & body goods, on that you should be dwelling
Stick candles underneath our nose, then ask, "How is that smelling?"
"Competitors are criminals", of that you scream and shout
On every website you delight, "Make sure you're whoring out!"
Soon you will go on QVC, where they sell Coach and Gucci
Your dream, by far, to be a star, bigger than Susan Lucci!


Sunday, September 18, 2011

'Gram of the Week (8/22/11 - 8/28/11)


There must be something in the atmosphere that affects and influences people's biorhythms...or maybe it's that primitive, caveman part of us, like the hypnic jerk, where you feel like you're falling just before you fall asleep. I've read that primitive man, or probably our more ape-like ancestors used to sleep in trees. And if you fell out of a tree, well, you were dinner for whatever lurked below. That jerking reflex kept you alive and from falling out of the tree!

It is with that, that I introduce a variety of highlighted deliveries for the week.

The week started innocently enough with a delivery to a 95 year-old retired medical professor from Cornell University; Dr. Roger Greif. An old-fashioned gentleman, Dr. Greif has taught and trained generations of young doctors throughout the years. His wife is a trustee of Goucher College in Baltimore. I had expected to deliver to his apartment on East 87th Street. I was mistaken....it was his house! His HOUSE in New York City. It's rare that I get to go to someone's house in Manhattan. The entire brownstone is his home, and he lives over by Gracie Mansion.

What made this delivery so interesting is the inter-connecting of life's dots; the six degrees of separation. Making some light conversation after, I sang, I asked if Cornell was the only place he taught. Roger said that he had taught at Johns Hopkins in the early 1950's. Then I mentioned that I was reading this remarkable book called "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks", by Rebecca Skloot, which tells the story of how in 1951, at Johns Hopkins, a young black woman's sample of her cancerous tissues, taken without her knowledge or consent, continued to grow (and are still growing) and turned out to provide one of the holy grails of mid-century biology, making some of the most crucial innovations in modern science possible. Dr. Greif nodded and said simply , "Yes, I knew those people".

Then Wella International sent me to the Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa on Fifth Avenue to send a singing VIP invitation to two stylists/colorists to come to the annual International Trend Vision Awards as guests of Wella. Usually held in Europe in cities like Paris or Milan, for the first time the event is being held here in New York. It's a gathering of 65 other countries. Exciting for all I imagine, except of course, those in the industry who work in New York . So I went, dressed in my tuxedo, and sang a song to the very embarrassed duo, to the tune of "New York, New York", while their wealthy clientele looked bemused by the presentation. The staff was super. They treated me as if I were one of their guests, giving me a cool glass of water with lemon while I waited to perform.

Speaking of lemons, this next delivery was a testament to making lemons out of lemonade.

Toward the end of the week, with the approaching hurricane, things started to get a little wobbly. Maria had originally called me a few weeks back to do a Bachelorette Party-type delivery out in Montauk Point on a Saturday night, but by the time she called the order in, there was no one available to do it, since it's a two-hour drive east and a two-hour drive back. I couldn't squeeze it into what was already on the books. So I sadly had to kiss that one goodbye. But Maria loved the idea so much, she decided to have it done at BLT Fish in Manhattan at the rehearsal dinner, the night before the wedding/reception at Cipriani's. The rehearsal dinner was also the night before the hurricane. She had asked for a singing chicken because the bride and groom collect stuffed animals and that's the closest costume I have to a stuffed animal. A few hours before the delivery, Maria calls me to tell me that Cipriani's called them to tell them the wedding was being called off. They had no staff for the next night because of the hurricane and they had to postpone it until sometime in October. That's enough to take the wind out of anyone's sails.

But because it was Friday and the hurricane had yet to begin, they were already celebrating their rehearsal dinner with most of the guests who would be attending the wedding, including the bride's Aunt, who is a spiritual leader and the celebrant for the wedding. The couple opted to get married on THAT night, instead of some arbitrary date in October. After a quick "update/rewrite" of the song, Aunt Barbara stepped in to unite them, the chicken was the "cantor-du-jour", and Hurricane Irene christened the festivities.

"Tomorrow was the day, it's true

You were supposed to say, "I do"

But a woman has stepped in-between

She goes by the name of Hurricane Irene"

And finally.......there's Louie. If anyone personified the imminent storm, it was he. It's Lou's 25th Birthday. With his two sisters, they run a Greek restaurant in Brooklyn. He's the cook. Based on what his girlfriend of six months told me, he seemed like a pretty interesting guy. He's of Greek/Mexican descent, speaks Italian, Greek, Spanish, and English, works six days a week, loves to quote liberally from Adam Sandler movies, plays poker with his buddies, and is a big practical joker.

But this goes back to what I've said many times before; a singing telegram is NOT for everybody. You should know the person well enough to know whether or not they are a good candidate for a singing telegram. Louie was not. I'm in Brooklyn, poised to do my chicken delivery. The skies are getting dark and ominous and I'm eager to get back to Long Island before our predicted Category One arrives.

It arrived earlier than expected....in the form of Louie. Oh, was he mad! And I knew it the minute I stepped out of the bathroom to confront him. I'm liberally editing the song, doing my best rendition of an Evelyn Woods Speed Through (look it up!), looking for that hint of a smile. It ain't there and it ain't coming. He finally put his hand up and said, "Stop!" Which I immediately did. I turned, walked back to the bathroom to change, and walked out.

His sisters were very apologetic. I don't take it personally. "It's alright, it happens," I said. I just wanted to get home. I had to walk past Louie and his girlfriend, outside of the restaurant, with him screaming at her and a look of complete astonishment on her face. (A side of him you never saw before? When someone shows you who they are......believe them. The first time!).

The skies opened up as I pulled into my driveway.



Tuesday, September 13, 2011

'Gram of the Week (8/15/11 - 8/21/11)


Evan has already surprised his wife, Stacy, with a singing telegram. It was a year ago, when he sent me to her Dad's dress designer company in the Garment Center in NYC.

This time, they would be dining at Rare Steakhouse in Syosset. Evan's cool. I always admire entrepreneurs, who come up with neat ideas for their business. Evan's is called Bar Mitzvah Bouncer. He provides a party chaperone service in the New York/New Jersey area for Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, Sweet 16 parties, and any other teen party, where parents want peace of mind, supervising the kids, while the parents can enjoy the party, as well. He hires teachers who have that special knowledge needed to deal with the teens effectively -- a great and effective idea!

I have a special kinship with Evan. Both of our wives laughed at us when we told them the type of business we wanted to start.

This time Evan was going for the trifecta; he didn't just want to send me into the restaurant once to sing to his wife again, he wanted me to go out and change my costume and come in a second time, making it three times that his wife has been surprised with a singing telegram in one year.

The first time, I was dressed as the Godfather/Soprano/Goodfellas/Wise Guy character, "Beansy". The second time, I was dressed as the chicken. It was raining like heck outside and the restaurant was packed for a Sunday night, but the owner had no objections to my singing in the middle of their dinner and allowed me to get into my costume inside the front of the restaurant, out of the rain (Nice guy. Note to self; patronize the place!)

Stacy just groaned and rolled her eyes when I turned the corner (She didn't know what else was coming!). But she was very gracious and took it like a pro, while zinging her husband with sideway glances. She was a little down in the dumps because they were supposed to be in the Bahamas Atlantis for her Birthday, but her daughter got sick and they had to cancel at the last minute....and no, this didn't make up for it!

After the first song, I kissed Stacy goodbye, and said, "See you next year!"

Five minutes later, I was back singing as a chicken. All she could do was just stare at Evan. Her Dad didn't even stop eating this time; just kept packing the food in, while I sang! At one point, she said to her husband, "I am so embarrassed!"

Wait a minute. Let me get this straight; I'M the one dressed as a chicken and YOU'RE embarrassed?

On the way out, the restaurant owner said, "So you coming back as Elvis next?"
I answered, "No, why?"
He said, "Oh, the husband mentioned that he was having an Elvis singing telegram, too!"

(Glad I got in and out early!)


Sunday, September 11, 2011

'Gram of the Week (8/8/11 - 8/14/11)


I work in the service industry. My job is to give the customers what they want. I feel I already offer a unique business; custom-written, personalized songs, and a wide range of costumes from which to choose. But sometimes, customers want something else. Perhaps a costumed character not on my extensive list, a delivery outside of my delivery zone, or maybe a specific song, instead of a personalized one.

As long as their request doesn't hurt or offend anybody, I usually comply; or make the attempt to comply. After all, as I said, it's a service business. I never say "No!" The next step, of course, is pricing the request to close the deal. The rental of a costume, the extra charge for transportation, or taking the time to download a song and then learning it. All of that costs money and has to be factored into my price for the specialized service. And most customers understand that and have no problem paying the additional fee.

Rakel contacted me from Sweden. She's working temporarily in the Stockholm office of B-Reel -- a production company that produces digital, film, and animation. It's her first Anniversary for her and Patrik; they've been dating a year. Her request was pretty unusual. She wanted a male singer to arrive at the New York office of B-Reel, dressed as a big red heart, and sing two specific songs.

The first song was "You and Me", by Penny and the Quarters, which became a hit when it was used in the Ryan Gosling film, "Blue Valentine". No problem. That was easy.

The second song was a little bit more unusual. Apparently, they have this private joke between them that has to do with a South Park episode, where a hand-puppet sings a song a la Jennifer Lopez, called "Taco-Flavored Kisses" .

And the request was to sing that second song, JUST LIKE the puppet sings it on the YouTube clip. Well, it took a couple of dozen times of listening to it over and over to get the rhythm and the pronunciations right ("Fulfill all your weeeeshizz with my taco-flavored keeeeesizz"), but in the end, I nailed it: picture perfect.

Now I can't get the damned song out of my head!


Saturday, September 10, 2011

'Gram of the Week (8/1/11 - 8/7/11)


......and sometimes, when you are faced with tragic news, you want to help ease the burden a little bit, get them to enjoy the here and now, and make someone's day just a little bit brighter.

Gina called, asking for a quote to do a singing gorilla with a pink tutu for Little Egg Harbor, NJ; a place I had never heard of. It's a little bit north of Atlantic City and having recently driven down there, I wasn't eager for another six hour round trip. I told her that Little Egg wasn't in my coverage area, then gave her the phone numbers of other companies out of Philadelphia that might be able to do it for much less.

I almost felt embarrassed to quote her my rate. I'd also be limited to a specific time, since I'd have to leave by 9 AM in order to get there somewhere between Noon and 1 PM, getting me back to Long Island by 4:30, 5:00 for my other deliveries.

Gina's Dad, Frank, was going to be celebrating his 70th Birthday and the family had just received some pretty devastating news; he had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and this Birthday was more than likely going to be his last.

His kids and grandkids were all going to be seeing him later on the weekend, but because of their schedules and jobs and distance needed to travel to get there, no one was going to be with him on his actual Birthday.

I told Gina I'd go above and beyond -- write as long a song as I would need to fit in as much information she wanted to give me, as well as throw in a balloon bouquet, but I couldn't do it for less than my quote.

I don't know what happened with the other companies, but she called back in the evening, the night before Frank's Birthday. "They are less expensive," she said, "but I don't like what they're offering. We want to go with you."

She and her siblings had reasoned that this would be all the future Christmas gifts, Father's Day gifts, and Birthday gifts, that they'd no longer be able to give him, all rolled into one.

"Gina, you're breaking my heart."

I got right to work, writing the Mother-of-all-gorilla-in-tutu-songs for Frank, a retired auto body mechanic, who now spends his days fishing and crabbing. There was also the story of how, many years ago, while trying to cut a bush, he cut off the cat's tail, and part of his finger!

His wife and neighbors were there to take pictures. We laughed. We cried. Frank exhausted his repertoire of Polish jokes (despite my Polish heritage, I laughed). I stayed until they ran out of different combinations of poses for the camera.

"This animal lover is whom we hail
Cutting a bush, cut off his finger,
And the cat's tail!"


'Gram of the Week (7/25/11 - 7/31/11)


David turned 40 this week. All of David's friends are married and have children. David's single and spends most of his time hanging out with all his married friends and their kids. By the end of the night, he usually winds up crashing on their couch. "Better not sit there. That's where David's going to sleep!"

So David's friends ordered an Elvis for his Birthday. I show up and they're all shooting pool. The pool table takes up the entire living room ( they're ALL just big kids!).

David is an independent film producer, who, when he's not searching the data base for a suitable mate on Match.com, he is taking enneagram personality tests, crossing yet another feat off of his "Adventure List", hanging out at the Walt Whitman Shopping Center, and eating his hamburgers "topless" (no bun!).

Oh yeah, I suspect he's kind of anal, too. When you invite him over for dinner, he not only brings his own food, but he goes through your cupboard and reorganizes it! Yup.....this bachelor's a real catch!

But in all seriousness, David took the roasting in good stride. That's his greatest asset; the ability to laugh at oneself!


Thursday, September 8, 2011

'Gram of the Week (7/18/11 - 7/24/11)

(recap of a gaggle of deliveries in mid-July)

A solid week of heat this week, where the temperature hovered in the high 90's - low 100's. Hot doesn't begin to describe it. I wake in the morning chanting "nogorillasorchickenstoday, nogorillasorchickenstoday, nogorillasorchickenstoday"....

But I cheerily book them when they're ordered. It's such an odd feeling, as I step into costume and immediately feel the waterworks of sweat cascading down my back and slosh my way into a room to sing. (So THIS is what Hot Yoga feels like!)

* Had a delivery for a producer at NBC Nightly News. This one was in a tuxedo. Parking is a little bit of a problem in NYC, so you kind of have to find it where it exists and walk to your destination, otherwise you've got to shell out about $20 - $30 to park in a garage in mid-town for an hour. But I found a spot on the street about ten city streets north and three avenues west of 30 Rockefeller Center. Parking was limited to one hour, so I had to make tracks. A 15 minute walk going and a 15 minute walk coming back only gave me about 30 minutes of wiggle room. I don't think I got more than three blocks before my white tuxedo shirt was drenched. I carried my jacket, instead of wearing it. When I got to the building, I looked as if I had melted and asked for ten minutes in the men's room to "dry off". Then I sang to Megan about her craving for Magnolia's Banana Cream Pie and how she's known as the "Obit Queen" around the office. She's the go-to girl whenever a celebrity dies. Upon completion, it was a mad dash back to my car.

* Freddy works for NYC sanitation and lives in Staten Island. He broke his ankle playing basketball in a pick-up game and couldn't work on the trucks, so his friends sent a gorilla/doctor. He felt so sorry for me singing in the heat, he gave me a six-pack of beer.

* David got a pink gorilla in a commercial high rise building in East Rutherford, NJ. He was on the phone when I arrived, so they put me in a conference room to wait.....and wait......and wait...... It had been a very long, hot day. I put my head back in the cool, dark conference room. The next thing I know, someone's nudging me awake. I had fallen asleep in my costume....I have never done that before. This heat sucked all the energy out of me.

* The very next day, I have to sing to a fireman in Paterson, NJ. His wife sent him a cowboy, because he loves cowboys and horses. Just as I show up to the station house, they're called out on an alarm. Bad timing. They were gone for an hour. It was my last delivery of the day, so I didn't mind waiting, and given his job, it's the least I could do. I couldn't hang out in the firehouse, so I waited in my car, windows open and half out of my costume. With the evening heat, humidity, and hot winds blowing, there was no relief. Again, I made the mistake of putting the baseball game on the radio and putting my head back.....damn, if I didn't fall asleep again! Awoke to his wife at my car window, saying, "He's baaaaaaaaaaaaack!"

* Sunny's parents are away and her friends out west in Los Angeles heard she's throwing a big Birthday pool party for herself with her folks out of town. Dressed as a chicken, I felt a kinship to my slaughtered brethren being barbecued on the grill next to me when I entered the backyard. It's probably the only time I would not have minded if someone decided to throw me into the pool. But these costumes are a bitch to dry when wet!

* Carmela works in a laundrymat. Her boss sent her a comic Elvis for her Birthday. Seemed like a pretty cut and dry delivery, until I pulled into the little shopping strip to park my car in the shade and change into my costume. It was right about then that three police cars came tearing into the parking lot with sirens wailing to collar some guy, who I later found out was dealing drugs. It was a stakeout and they pounced hard and fierce. After about a half an hour of waiting for things to settle down, I was eager to get into the laundrymat to sing, so I just stepped out of the car and made my way across the parking lot....dressed as Elvis! It was a very cinematic effect as I walked by the crime scene. I felt as if I was walking in slow motion as all the policemen and the drug dealer stopped what they were doing to turn their heads as I walked by and into the laundrymat.

* And finally....I ended this blistering week with a delivery on High Line Park; the "park in the sky". It's a NYC park built on the former elevated freight railroad spur of the West Side Line from West 12th Street to West 30th. Emi's family and friends were giving her a Bachelorette Party and opted to have me sing to her on the public stroll through the park instead of at the restaurant . After a week's worth of gorillas and chickens in the blistering heat, I "urged" her sister to go with street clothes in lieu of a formalized costume. Better to catch Emi by suprise and have a pedestrian just start singing to her. Apparently, there is some connection to Helen Reddy's "I Am Woman." So after narrowing down which party of ten females walking in party hats and hornblowers was Emi's group, I leapt into song. As I was leaving, I caught part of a couple's conversation behind me. "I don't know, why you don't you ask him?", the woman said. Then, directed at me, I heard, "Excuse me, but were you just a singing telegram?" I turned to find this gentleman, his wife, and their three daughters facing me and replied in the affirmative. The man broke into a big satisfied grin and said, "You sang at our Wedding 22 years ago at the Lawrence Jewish Center! You were a gorilla in a tuxedo!"

"How did you know it was me if I was a gorilla then and now I'm in street clothes?"

"I recognize your voice!", he said

"You've been busy!" I said, noting the three girls. "Well.........Mazel tov!" I said as I walked away.

"That's what you said 22 years ago!", he shouted.

What a week!


'Gram of the Week (7/11/11 - 7/17/11)


Marta's from Poland and she turned 25 this week. She also works at the Wall Street Journal. It hasn't been a good week for Rupert Murdoch and his News Corp. media empire with the phone-hacking scandal at the now defunct News of the World newspaper in the United Kingdom.

Even worse, this afternoon, his right-hand man, Les Hinton, resigned as the Chief Executive of Dow Jones (the parent company of the Wall Street Journal).

So I guess you fiddle while Rome is burning, right? On the very day the Chief Executive is resigning, some of his staff is sending a pink gorilla to Marta, a sales planner, trying to brighten her day ( and I imagine everyone else's) and add a little bit of levity to the dark cloud hanging over the media tycoon's empire....glad to oblige!

So I sang about Polish kielbasa and pierogi and drinking Dogfish Head beer.

You've got to admire a company, whose owner is having the worst week of his professional career, if not his life. Rupert's employees are trying to keep some kind of sense of humor in their heads, while everyone else is losing theirs!


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

'Gram of the Week (7/4/11 - 7/10/11)

ON SECOND THOUGHT.............

I'm not sure Orly thought this one entirely through. She wanted to celebrate her one-year dating Anniversary to Josh, by sending him a gorilla in a tutu to Blackrock in Plainsboro, NJ.

Blackrock is the largest money manager in the world. When you walk into one of their buildings, you'd think you were in Fort Knox, with all the secrecy and all the security. Even the name sounds kind of ominous.

Apparently Orly and Josh met while working out at the gym. He is as tall, young, and tattooed as she is beautiful; a perfect match! However, the info she was giving me was better suited for a private, more intimate setting among friends, not co-workers.
(TMI !)

I kept asking her, "Are you sure it's OK to say this?"

"Oh, yeah, yeah," she replied.

All I'm thinking about is how am I going to get this past security since Orly did not have a contact person on the inside. I figured that the worst-case scenario was that they would have to call Josh down to security and I'd deliver the song there, instead of up on the trading floor, among co-workers.

Sure enough, I walk in the building and I'm immediately confronted by a cadre of retired cops, who now work the security detail for Blackrock. But they were cops with a sense of humor. Instead of calling Josh down, I got a police escort up to Josh. All five of them. It was an escort, because no one wanted to stay behind. They all were eager to see the gorilla in a pink tutu deliver to this huge guy.

When I walked into his office, which was just off of the open trading area, Josh was on a conference call. He figured out was about to happen and managed to jump off of the call. He knew he was trapped and there was little he could do ( he COULD have told me to leave, but I think he was trying to save face in front of his co-workers)

Josh kept his head down the whole time. I'm pretty good at "reading" people, so I'm always very aware of body language. He winced when I mentioned the part about him sending "naughty pictures" to Orly, especially in light of the recent Anthony Weiner sexting scandal. It was clear he was never going to hear the end of it from the guys (and the cops) at Blackrock.

Forget about the two-year dating Anniversary....I'm taking bets on whether or not they're going to celebrate their 13-month dating Anniversary in early August.

On the escort back down to the lobby, one of the security guards said, "You have the best job in the whole freakin' world!".............That I do!

"You put Orly in a fix
When you send her naughty pics
To travel 'round the world, you choose
Where you show everybody your tattoos!"


Monday, September 5, 2011

'Gram of the Week (6/27/1 - 7/3/11)


(Who wants to work after coming back from a glorious week in Rome?....well, I guess I do if I have to pay for the trip!)

James is a former high school acting student of mine. I used to direct him in his High School musicals. He went on to major in music at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. His focus is Prog Rock and his band is Edensong (heavy influence of Dream Theater, as well as Ian Anderson/Jethro Tull.)

He brought me in to play keyboards/piano on their first CD, entitled The Fruit Fallen. They love to play funky time signatures (17/8, 23/8....which drove me absolutely crazy). The drummer would always say to me, "Don't try to count it, just feel it!" (He was right).

I used to make fun of myself in the group, calling myself "Grandpa", but they were very accepting and preferred to call me the "saucy Uncle!"

Anyway, James is getting married in August to a girl he met up at Wesleyan. His Bachelor Party was held in a music studio in NYC. His buddies surprised him by flying in the original vocalist from Dream Theater, who now resides in San Diego, to hang out and jam with James. They had me come dressed as a nun and I sang the song to the tune of "How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria", from The Sound of Music.

I considered it a privilege to catch him mouth agape and speechless!

(sung to the tune of "How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria")

No argument here, you are Sarah's Adonis
The very thought of you evokes a smile
Progressive Rock's your thing, can't stand Alanis
We cannot ignore
Dream Theater is more your style
We'll find you making soup two in the morning
Studio engineer's your rightful place
It drives you nuts, no bull
To have your back hair pulled
But "I am not a boundary in this case"
My friends, this wedding soon will be upon us
It's married life that you will soon embrace!


Sunday, September 4, 2011

'Gram of the Week (6/20/11 - 6/26/11)


Short week........taking my daughter to Rome for six days for her Sweet 16th Birthday. A rather impulsive, last-minute decision (literally one week's notice!), when I realized she'll be out of the house and off to college in only two years , whether we go or not and I'll never get this time back again.

Before I leave though, I have managed to squeeze in a couple of deliveries, specifically a Godfather/Sopranos/Goodfellas-gram for Barbara's 50th Birthday from all her girlfriends in "The Book Club Chicks"; a group of women who get together periodically to socialize and discuss a book they have chosen to read.

Sometimes, if the author is within the New York area, they invite the author out to their home to talk about their book. The last book they read, Sleeping With Mortals, by Catherine Goldstein is tell-all tale about a New York mistress, who decided at 19, that she wanted to be a career mistress......Ms. Gold-Digger, er....I mean, Ms. Goldstein writes a slightly "fictionalized" account of her life.

Roundly panned by Barbara's Book Club, they all had a good laugh and relived it again, as "Beansy" claimed to be Ms. Goldstein's agent and was here to settle some scores!

Rome.......it's enough to consider opening a Preppygram franchise in the City of Love.



Saturday, September 3, 2011

'Gram of the Week (6/13/11 - 6/19/11)


Seth and Kim seem to be having a contest with Dan and Steph. Both are young couples. Seth and Kim are married and the other couple are engaged (couple is a collective noun, hence the plural verb!).

Kim runs a dance school, called "Arts in Motion", and Seth is a drummer who plays in a band called "East of the Wall" in and around the New York Metro area. Neither couple have a child yet and they're both eager for the other couple to go first.

This past Mother's Day, Kim and Seth gave Steph a Mother's Day gift for a "first time Mother." So for Father's Day, Steph and Dan decided to up the ante and return the favor by sending an attractive young woman to sing to Seth for his first Father's Day.

Apparently Seth and Kim have named their "faux baby boy" Fusion. The joke was that Fusion is being breast-fed on Starbucks and Seth was already teaching the baby to snowboard.

This all must have been very confusing for THEIR mother and father, who were there to celebrate Father's Day for Seth's Dad, but "Quasi-Grandad" and "Quasi-Grandma" had a good sense of humor about the whole thing.

Wonder if by next Mother's Day we'll be singing for real to either Kim or Steph?!


Friday, September 2, 2011

'Gram of the Week (6/6/11 - 6/12/11)


Gail is fast becoming a good friend and a great customer. She is a real estate broker out east on Long Island. And I'll bet she's a good one; she's fast on her feet, quick with her tongue, and sees an opportunity in every situation. She's funny and sharp.

It's Joe's Birthday. Joe is about as Italian as they come. Actually born and raised on Mulberry Street in New York's Little Italy. Gail wanted to surprise her boyfriend with one of my Godfather/Sopranos/Goodfellas singing telegrams at Mario's in East Setauket.

The creation of my Godfather character is loosely based on a man to whom I delivered many years ago, who worked for..........well, let's just say I was told he was a "knock-around kind of guy". I made the mistake of asking exactly what that meant, only to be told (after a long pause), "He beats up people for a living"


Anyway, his name was "Beansy". All these guys have nicknames. Half the fun is trying to figure out why they're given their nickname. I didn't figure it out until I met him. He talked like he had beans in his mouth! I loved the name, so when it came time to choose a name for this Soprano-style messenger, it was a no-brainer; "Beansy was born!

Back to Joe -- he was celebrating at Mario's with his two grown sons and his girlfriend, Gail. My job is to kind of surprise him at the table in the middle of dinner. I walk by the table, pretend to do a double-take, and then say, "Joe? Is that you, Joe? It's me, "Beansy" from Mulberry Street."

Unbeknownst to me (and apparently his girlfriend), Joe grew up with a "Beansy" from Mulberry Street. He gives me a classic "WTF?" look. I already knew, by the information Gail had provided, that Joe had a quick, hot temper. Truly, I thought he was going to shoot me right then and there. So I did the one thing I do really well....I broke into song. Joe's stuck with his soup spoon halfway between the bowl and his mouth, trying to process what's going on......and then the tears start flowing down his cheeks. He's crying, he's laughing, he's NOT shooting.....

He wouldn't let me leave. Joe insisted I sit at the table to have a glass of wine with him. I've got a friend for life. If I ever need anything, I just call Joe.