Posts Tagged ‘Honolulu Comedy Club’
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.
Of all the things to do in Waikiki, on this particular night the correct answer was the Honolulu Comedy Club.
“Bo,” I breathed with excitement into the phone. “Redd Foxx is sitting in our club right now. 3rd row.”
Powerless. Helpless. Bo Irvine was headlining at our Turtle Bay comedy gig on Oahu’s North Shore and was too far away to hele back into town to meet his idol. I knew Redd Foxx was on the top of Bo’s list, because a year or two prior to this we had a minor disagreement over the subject of Redd Foxx.
What happened was I had set Bo up for his first press interview with the Honolulu Advertiser. Cool. The next day I find myself reading in the paper that his comedy idol is none other than Redd Foxx. Not cool.
“Are you kidding me?” I whined at him. “Redd Foxx? REDD FOXX?? What the heck were you thinking!”
Bo was bewildered. “Because the reporter asked me who my comedy inspiration was and I answered the question.”
“Truth has nothing to do with what you say to a reporter!”
“What’s wrong with Redd Foxx?” he asked, still not knowing where I was coming from.
“Well, nothing’s wrong with him. Great comedian. Legendary comedian. But he’s blue. Blue comedian. Very R rated. You’re not an R rated comic, but if you tell everyone Redd Foxx is your comedy idol everything might get the mistaken impression that you are trying to emulate him. To be Redd Foxx. To be R. Bo Irvine is R. But you R not R!”
“I was just telling the truth.”
He just doesn’t get it. Or maybe I’m the one not getting it. Yes, tell the truth. But no law says you have to tell the Whole Truth unless you’re in a court of law and your hand’s on the Book.
The reason this came up was because a few minutes ago I was on the phone with a very nice gentleman who works with a program that airs on MTV and also happens to be Redd Foxx’s grandson. He is working on starting a show in Las Vegas show at the hotel for which I am the entertainment consultant. I asked him a question that had been nagging me. “For years I’ve been telling people that Redd Foxx was in the audience at our comedy club in Honolulu six weeks before he passed away, that he was on his honeymoon. Do I have my facts right?”
I’d always been concerned that I dreamed this up. I’m in show business and delusion is contagious. I like knowing I have both feet on the ground. Besides, I distinctly remember calling Bo who raced back to Waikiki after his show was over but to no avail. Too late. Redd was gone.
Fact check: Green light, positive. Redd did honeymoon in Hawaii just before he passed away. Note to self: No senile yet.
I never did ask Bo if he cut a few minutes off his stand-up show that night at Turtle Bay to get back in time to meet his comedy inspiration. Bo always tells me the truth and I didn’t want to know. Do not shave points off the show to meet an idol. The truth? I can’t handle the truth.
Factoid: Redd Foxx’s real name was John Elroy Sanford. I never knew that!
Okay folks… If you can stomach blue R rated stand-up, which has NO relationship whatsoever to what Bo Irvine does on stage, here a link for ya: Redd Foxx
I met John, a New York comic, at the Las Vegas Convention Center this week. Very funny and nice guy. A former NYC cop. When I told him that I’ve run comedy clubs in Hawaii for quite a number of years he felt compelled to share a story with me about his first experience with the world of stand-up. It was as a member of the audience.
And it wasn’t pretty.
Before going down that road though, a little background. We are both staying at the same hotel down the block from the LV Convention Center, the Clarion Hotel & Casino, the GM of which is Steve Dennis, a very good friend of mine and Bo Irvine. Steve was one of our locally based comics on Oahu in the late 80’s while attending UH.
Okay then. Go with me to a Thursday in January 1989. Waikiki. Diamond Head. Wedding. Honeymoon. Friday. John and his new bride went out to the a comedy club.
“Was it by chance at the Ilikai Hotel?” I asked. I knew it was. We’ve pretty much been the only comedy club in Hawaii since 1988.
Yep, Ilikai. Top floor, killer view. Honolulu Comedy Club.
“That was my club.”
John was a jerk. That’s his description, not mine. “I was such a (bleeping) jerk,” he confessed. “We went to the club on Friday night, and then went back on Saturday night so I could yell out the punch lines before the comedian got to them.”
If he only knew then as a customer what he knows today as a professional comedian. He continued: “But the comic slammed me. Bad. Really put me in my place. Made me feel ‘this’ big. But boy did I have it coming to me.”
In the late 1980’s, we only had a finite number of local comics and I had to know which one did the deed so I could give him a belated high five. “Do you remember what he looked like?” I asked.
“Yeah,” John answered. “Tall, thin, big bushy eyebrows.”
“Guess what John. The hotel you’re staying at? Mr. Bushy Eyebrows is the General Manager.