Archive for September, 2011
So there Charlie and I were, sitting in the TV studio waiting for the cameras to start rolling, when in walks Jay Leno. Please understand, this was both good news and bad news. Good news for me, bad news for Charlie.
We had just opened our Waikiki comedy club in February. It was now June. We were still trying to get the word out, which was kind of OCD of us considering that every show in March, April and most of May were sellouts. But still, it’s never enough when you’re not sleeping well at night.
One of our comics in town that week was Charlie Laborte. Not only was Charlie of Asian descent, a definite plus for our local market, but he also used to live in Hawaii. Double bonus. KGMB TV thought so, too. They wanted to interview Charlie on their 5pm news program with Leslie Wilcox that Friday afternoon. I played the role of chauffeur. First show that night was at 8pm. Plenty of time.
In walks Jay Leno.
Jay was in concert that night at the Waikiki Shell. He had just flown in. I wanted to open for his concert to do a plug for our club figuring the people who would attend his concert were our crowd, but the promoter said no; that Jay didn’t need an opening act. That’s cool, no big deal.
Charlie and I chatted with Jay for a while. Going through Charlie’s mind of course was, “How in the heck am I going to be funny on a TV interview when coming up after me will be JAY LENO!” And going through my mind was, “Man, I’d love to open for his concert at the Shell tonight.”
For me it all turned out to be quite simple. I told him what I wanted to do and why. He picked up the phone, called the promoter and said, “Eddie Sax is opening for me tonight.” Done.
No, not done. Panic.
The concert starts in 2 hours, I’m in town, my juggling equipment is in Hawaii Kai and it’s rush hour. I called Charlotte who was fortunately still at home but with one foot out the door. “Emergency!” I yelled into the phone.
“Grab my juggling suitcase and meet me at the Waikiki Shell as fast as you can possibly get there.”
“I’m opening for Jay Leno.”
It took her forever to get there. Well, not really, but that’s how it seemed on the clock churning in my stomach. I grabbed the suitcase out of the car, she sped off to the Ilikai to manage the club – now with one less worker, me – and I had about 15 minutes to warm up and get my head together before my introduction.
The show went well. I only did 10 minutes figuring that was enough to get my point across. I plugged the club. Jay took the stage and before diving into his show, also plugged the club. Truly, one of the nicest guys in showbiz.
As much as I would have loved to bask in the glory of the moment for the next 90 minutes watching Jay’s show, then work the crowd on their way out… no. There were more important tasks at hand. Mr. Ten Minutes Of Fame jumped into a taxi, sped across Waikiki to the Ilikai to help show our comedy club customers to their seats. People who didn’t know and worse, didn’t care that only 20 minutes earlier their seater was on stage at the Waikiki Shell…
And I didn’t care either. It’s all in a day’s work.
Back to Jay… Nice guys don’t often finish on the top of the heap. Jay Leno is one notable exception. Nice and hard working. Perhaps a little too hard working, as evidenced in his TV interview with Leslie. She began a question with, “When you performed here last year…” and Jay interrupted saying, “I wasn’t here last year.”
Leslie: “Yes you were.
Jay: No, I wasn’t.
Leslie, looking at her notes: “You were at the Sheraton Waikiki last August.”
Jay: “No, I wasn’t.”
Leslie: “Well, let’s move on…”
I understand the concept of confusing Omaha with Kansas City, but not remembering you were in Honolulu 10 months earlier? Time to slow down, Jay.
As for Charlie, he did just fine. We sold out the weekend.
Charlotte and I picked up the paper the next day to read Wayne Harada’s concert review which included a line at the bottom, “Juggler Eddie Sax from the Honolulu Comedy Club was an unannounced opening act and did a fine job.”
I impressed Wayne Harada. Maybe now I can sleep better at night.
I was handed a message one day as I walked into the comedy club in Waikiki. Some guy named Bill Dana called. It was a Hawaii number, 808-248-Something.
248? Never heard of 248. I looked it up. Maui. Hana, Maui. Someone’s calling me from Hana? Hana, the hotbed of Hawaii evening entertainment. How mysterious. Enthusiastically, I dial soon enough am speaking with “some guy named Bill Dana.”
Only I quickly discovered that Bill Dana is anything but “some guy.” When he reminded me that he was better known for one of his comedic characters, “Jose Jiménez,” a chill went up my spine.
For those of you under the age of 50, let me put this into context. Bill Dana and his alter ego Jose Jiménez are legend. The Ed Sullivan Show. The Bill Dana Show on NBC, 1963-1965 (these were the days before 970 channels from which to choose).
Bill was even better known for his writing. He wrote stand-up for comedian Don Adams, including his famous “Would you believe” routine which went on to icon status in the TV program Get Smart, and wrote the 1980 Get Smart movie, The Nude Bomb. He played Sophia’s brother Angelo on The Golden Girls. His most famous work, however, was the script he penned for the best known episode of the hit sitcom All in the Family, entitled “Sammy’s Visit,” which arranged an encounter between Sammy Davis Jr. and Archie Bunker. (See above clip, 17:30 mark: “Sammy, your being colored, I know you had no choice in that. But whatever made you turn Jew?”)
I’m on the phone with Jose Jiménez. I can’t believe I’m on the phone with Jose Jiménez!
Bill was interested in doing some sort of show in Honolulu and was recommended to me by a few mutual friends in Los Angeles. The show never panned out but the memory of taking a call from Bill Dana… Jose Jiménez – that was forever.
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