May 23, 2013
JERRY LEWIS: THE DEVIL’S GENIUS, I GET A DAY JOB, THE RADIO SHOW TAKES OFF AND LIFE AT JIMMY WOO’S
So, comedy fans and friends, last week I issued an urgent appeal to help my save my ass from scornful eviction from the off-beat Marina hostel run by the groovy Hong Konger Jimmy Woo. I didn't reach my complete goal, but I'm proud to say within 24 hours of posting this blog around the world, I was able to give Jimmy $500, half the amount needed. I am so grateful to everyone who donated and I was truly surprised of who donated. Friends, strangers and a few established comedians and comedy writers, including an Emmy award-winner. I thank you all; and the perks for your donations are being sorted and will be on their way to you soon. Thank you. The donation button is still there, as is the show; so if you like Stage Time With Steven Alan Green, and want to be extremely irresponsible by encouraging me into the future of broadcasting, then please feel free to check out the show and if you're feeling lucky, punk, then please donate. The money goes to costs of running the show and my fabulous co-host.
In the meantime, I got a new job. Yes, that's right. Steven Alan Green is now once again gainfully employed. (Yaye!) I work as a bicycle rental salesman at San Francisco Bicycle Rentals. They have locations in The Haight, where I worked my first day, as well as in Fisherman's Wharf and The Ferry Building. My job is to assist people who want to rent a bicycle. Having ridden a bicycle for three years in Los Angeles (as my main form of transpo), my legs are steel and I know the bikers philosophy. So, a little regular income never hurt anybody. I decided to stay off the stand-up comedy road for now. It's just too hard to get work, decent work like the old days. So many more comedians than from when I started 30 odd (very odd) years ago, even though none of them are nearly as funny. (LOL?) Plus, I want to try something new. Stay in one place. That's why I love the radio show. It's really turning into something. I want it to grow organically and it seems to be. We have regular written bits like, "Another Message from The Secret Government," and "The Church of the Divine Comedy", with regular call-ins from Ritch Shydner with Comedy History, giving us insights into a great story of a famous or non-famous comedian, either acting like a fool or having life turn the joke on him. Plus, Tamsin Hollo (my very lovely and ex-wife) contributes two segments. The Parallel Universal News Round-Up is a 90-second surreal piece pre-produced by Tamsin, which is basically a piss-take on the BBC News, with an overly-serious news presenter, a real "Moira", who deadpans her way across bizarre stories covering President Justin Bieber or talking dolphins, not that there's is much of a discernible difference. My gracious and multi-talented co-host Justine, brings in live in-studio musical guests and we have a stand-up comedian in-studio and then a phone call, often from my old home country, the UK. Tying all the interesting and fast-paced convo together are classic film and TV clips, all toasted off with some of my favourite rock n roll from the 60's, 70's, 80's and some new stuff too. This week's show was my first real foray into mentioning my old friend and nemesis Jerry Lewis on the air. I kinda wanted to keep it all separate; my life has so been contaminated by the stain of both what Jerry Lewis did to me and my ever-obsessing over it. It's gotta stop. So, why not now? Well, I'll tell you why not now. Jerry's in the news again.
That's right, my old best buddy and worst nemesis, Jerry Lewis is making waves. This time, his stupid antics, his big mouth expressing antiquated - indeed Medieval sentiments about women - have been overshadowed by his apparent brilliant performance as a widower in the new film Max Rose. I'm very happy for you, Jerry. I truly am. You are a great actor, amongst other things. In honour of my continuing twisted relationship-in-my-mind with Jerry Lewis, I've republished my Enjoy the Veal blog from August of last year: "Jerry Lewis: The Devil's Genius" Chapter One: Nobody's Patsy", from an idea for a book, below for your enjoyment and discourse.
Ya' know, folks, my life is getting good again. I've learned quite a bit in these last few very hard years. One or two people thought I had a sense of entitlement. That I kinda expected things to come to me easily, just because I'm me. I don't think that's it. I, like many of us, was, up until a few years ago, working and earning a living in the fields in which we love. I was very lucky. I had a wonderful and rich mother who loved all her kids and wanted them to have the showbiz lives she was denied. You see, when she was only 18, "a man from Hollywood" heard my mother sing in Brooklyn. Offered her mother (my Grandma Anna) a movie contract. He wanted to make Gloria Green the next Deanna Durbin. The Man from Hollywood offered Grandma Anna 50%. But, no. Anna said, "You can give me 100%!", shutting the door in his face. 18 year old Gloria Green, a great Coloratura, had her dreams crushed just like that. And, so my mother became the ultimate showbiz mom, enrolling me in acting class at age 3, which led to my booking my first professional showbiz job at age 5; and my career has been going downhill ever since. A TV commercial for White Front Department Stores, which sounds like a neo-Nazi retail outlet. It was really part of a larger chain of discount appliance stores, colour-coded for various parts of the country. There was "Yellow Front" in the South, "Red Front" in the Northeast, etc. It gets worse to explain it, doesn't it. The point was, is that that's when I got hooked. I'm in my mid-fifties now, so that means, on and off, over 50 years of showbiz. How can I get out of it now?
Last week, someone sent me a found clip of a game show I did at CBS in 1987. "Win, Lose or Draw" was a show base on "Pictionary", which is charades, but with drawing. Produced by Burt Reynolds and the late Bert Convey, I did the 5th show they taped. Now, when you're a stand-up comedian, and identify yourself as a stand-up comedian by profession, well, you are proud of that. You never have to give anyone your tax forms to prove you are a professional stand-up. You have enough good gigs under your belt, pretty good credits, such as your home club being The Comedy Store and you just are. You are a comedian. But, being a comedian can be very expensive, especially if paid work is sparse and it always is. Why? Simply because there's always someone who -- funny or not -- is willing to do your job in your stead, and for less money or free. So, there I was. Into my sixth year as a "Comedy Store Paid Regular" (a big deal to me in those days), living at the house that Mitzi owned, which was connected to The Comedy Store, with roommates such as the then unknown Andrew Silverstein, who later morphed into the great Andrew Dice Clay. Twenty comedians up at the end of the night, gigs over, big poker game around the table. Booze, pot and maybe even a free-basing comedian or two at the end of the table, who placed his bets between snorts. I was working the door at the Comedy Store and answering phones too. I had given up the day job thing and my successful telemarketing business. I'll tell you about that some time, but it was "the office supply business" run by the Hungarians. Oh, what stories. Anyway, I was broke and thought I'd go on a game show and try to win some money. After all, the great contemporary stand-up Robert Wuhl won 25grand on the $25,000 Pyramid, so why not me? During the interview process, they advised me to change my profession from stand-up to something else. They don't want Middle America thinking that even the contestants on Hollywood game shows are in showbiz. I understood, like an African American male being pulled over by the L.A.P.D.. And, to my luck, I had just applied for, and received my California Car Salesman license. Something like that. I don't remember, but I had some sort of proof I was a used car salesman. So, let the show begin...
During the break, Burt Reynolds turns to me and asks me, "You're not really a used car salesman; are you? You're a comedian, aren't you?" How he busted me, I'll never know. "Well, ya' know, Burt, you're right. As a matter of fact, there's a very famous photo of Richard Pryor, Robin Williams and yourself up on stage in the Original Room at The Comedy Store. I wasn't there that night, but I heard it was a great night." Burt Reynolds was in the audience and Robin was on after Richard, but had Richard stay and they both brought up Burt and had him tell a joke, while Pryor translated the joke into Ghetto Jive Speak and Robin into his funny sign-language. It was one of those "I wish I was there" nights. And, with apocryphal stories like that, no wonder I hung around the Store every night all those years. It wasn't just getting on stage; it was standing quietly in the back, watching comedy history go down before my very eyes. In those days, when Richard Pryor would work out his new material for a TV special or big concert, he'd do it at The Comedy Store. Every night, getting up in prime time, around 10:30pm. His appearances would attract Robin Williams to come back to the club to "play" with his friend and one of his idols. But, Pryor, the epitome of comedian drug use and dark thoughts, would instinctively attract a giggle of comedians, comedy writers and fellow drug users to hang around, wait for him to get off stage, do a line with Rich. Cool thing to do. Now, I wasn't against drugs. I just didn't do them. In fact, I did a stand-up act where I'd tell the audience up front that I was, in fact, "Addicted to the laughter and had to quit" doing stand-up, and so, "this was my last show; my farewell performance." It was a very fun little bit to do and it got me the audience's attention very quickly. That act, and the fact that I didn't do coke with Kinison, made me somewhat untrustworthy and in fact, suspicious by the comedians who did those drugs and then joked about doing those drugs on stage. And, it pissed me off. I saw the entire scene as perpetuating dangerously destructive addictive behavior of all kinds, including the use of the most powerful drug there was. The specter of fame. Apocryphal story of comedian Steve Lubetkin, who, upon hearing from Mitzi's mouth directly, "You're not funny," apparently mosied on next store, to the twenty-storey Continental Hyatt House Hotel, taking the elevator to the rooftop pool, then looking down, jumping off and landing in the parking lot of The Comedy Store. The joke was: "Did Mitzi see it?", meaning, if you wanted to make it at the Store, you could have a great killer set, but if Mitzi didn't see it with her own eyes, it meant nothing.
During those days, I was living at “Cresthill,” which was one of the houses Mitzi owned, which was just behind the Comedy Store and came with the purchase of the club, and where many comedians rented rooms as they worked the door for Mitzi, developed their comedy routines and confidence and found their true voice. I have to give this to Mitzi. She saw The Comedy Store as both a university of comedy, as well as an artist colony. Unlike Budd’s The Improv, which required comedians clean, spiffy and ready to go on corporate American commercial television, The Comedy Store was the live wire, a hornet's nest of madmen, some of them actual creative geniuses. That’s why you saw the most amazing outta the box comedy artists, such as Sam Kinison, Jim Carrey and, if I may say so, yours truly, work out oddball and offbeat comedy routines, and prefer to work out at the Store, rather than the Improv. Louie Anderson, a rather large Minnesotan stand-up, who was just getting noticed, had asked me personally to look after his nephew Joey, who, in his farm-boy innocence, was parking cars for Mitzi and living at Cresthill, along with me, a few others and a yet to be known, former Andrew Silverstein, who was morphing like Dracula into Andrew Dice Clay. Louie was concerned about all the drug use and partying that went up at Cresthill. He was concerned for his little nephew Joey. Meanwhile, studly Joey was banging this waitress, this comedienne, in the adjoining bathroom next to mine, and all I could do was to try and not hear it and jack off. So, one day, I come home, and the first thing I see if a comedian sharing a crack pipe with Joey. They both looked up at me. Busted! I called Louie and he came rushing over and kicked that comedian outta the house and yanked Joey back to the cornfield. From then on, not only did my spots (performance spots) dwindle to nothing, but Kinison and crew were calling me, “the narc”. Perhaps I would have done things differently today. Maybe I would’ve pulled both comedians aside separately, but I didn’t. I was still on red alert from my cousin Larry’s death in 1973. 25, brilliant and nice. Larry suffered from mental illness, but also had been a huge experimenter of hallucinogens. He was also closeted gay and did suffer 1970’s style homophobia. Larry killed himself at age 25 by jumping off one of the Park La Brea towers in 1973. Sorry if you live there.
When I got to The Comedy Store that night after doing the game show, Win, Lose or Draw, I saw Pryor was on stage. I hid in the little waitress area in the back of the Original room, knowing and seeing the giggle of comedians, who hung around waiting to do coke with Richard, were mostly in the hallway. Richard finishes his set to a standing-O, is walking off stage to the back of the room, towards where I was perched. I caught up with him like a D.C. reporter trying to keep up with a disgraced senator. “Hi, Richard. You might know me. “
“Yeah, I know you. You’re funny!”
We both keep walking in lock-step.
“Thank you, Richard. Anyway, I did this game show today with Burt Reynolds and I asked Burt to come down to the club tonight, but he couldn’t make it, and instead, told me to say hi from him, so 'Hi' from Burt Reynolds!”
Without even looking at me, Pryor said, as he took the steps down in tandem, “Yeah? Well, tell Burt to suck my dick! Yeah, tell him to suck my dick twice!” And, he kept walking, and into the arms of the giggle of drug using tough guy mobster wanna be comedians. And, I promised myself, right then and there. I would never be humiliated by a celebrity comedian ever again. Well, so much for promises. Read my blog about Jerry Lewis, which I wrote and published back in August of last year.
And, please listen to the new radio show. This Monday, we’re doing a special show about Jerry Lewis and my history with him.
Thanks, guys. Thanks for helping. I’m doing much better! And, even when I am not, I will still -- as I always have -- keep and covet my most important quality. My sense of humour.
JERRY LEWIS: THE DEVIL'S GENIUS
by Steven Alan Green
A lot has been said about my life-changing experience in working with Jerry Lewis; and primarily by yours truly. Truth is, actions speak much louder than words. And no action speaks louder than sex. It was a lovely London Sunday morning. The last of the drunks had waddled home from the pub and were neatly tucked away into their own warm blankets of vomit hours earlier. A horse-drawn hearse clip-clopped across the cobble-stone by my Notting Hill multi-level flat, taking some lucky English soul to that big pub in the sky. The electric milk truck quietly spun its rounds, dropping off fresh milk and cream to my new neighbours, Madonna and her Brit-Gangster flick director husband, Guy Richie. My lovely girlfriend of five years, Emma, had just given me the greatest “wind-employment” since Hurricane Katrina herself, as a prelude for some foreboding news she was about to impart my way. Sitting down on the couch next to me, as if she was about to announce she was secretly pregnant with Prince Harry’s child, Emma let me know, in no uncertain terms, she was leaving me. The reason was Jerry Lewis. Emma was sick of hearing my Jerry Lewis story. She was sick of my talking about it, writing about it, performing a one-man show about it, and most of all: Emma was sick to death of hearing of a “film I was developing with an Oscar winning producer based on my historical life-changing misadventure with Jerry Lewis.” She could care less and thought my obsession with Jerry Lewis was well beyond the pale of normal comedian madness and suggested I immediately seek psychiatric help, which I did, but my psychiatrist then left me for the same reason (he was a Dean Martin fan), but there was no “wind-employment” there, and why should there be, that would be just wrong, let me continue. You see, for me it was all business. Jerry Lewis was the biggest thing to ever happen to my career. When Jerry Lewis collapsed at the London Palladium, September 8, 2002, it made international news. Go ahead, Google it. We’ll wait. Ladies and Gentlemen, while the skeptics can’t wait, let me thank you, my loyal readers, who will politely wait until I’m done. Oh, they’re back. Was I right? ‘Nuff said. When Jerry Lewis collapsed at the London Palladium it created a flurry of questions hurled at me from all ends of the comedy industries in London, New York and LA; all repeating the same mysterious and annoying mantra, as if I, a “still-trying-to-figure-it-all-out-comedian” had somehow possessed the answer to the meaning of life itself:
“Did Jerry Lewis fake his collapse?”
1a Mortimer Square was a multi-level “maisonette” with a loft office under a skylight, a very high open gallery living room, and an indoor BBQ in the kitchen. I loved my home. It was the first bit of property I ever owned. But, I got carried away (or should have been!). Notting Hill had been a very low-rent district for 30 years. But, in the ‘90’s (much like New York’s Soho district in the 80’s) it became hip and prices went through the roof. There are two modern historical periods for Notting Hill, the former home and subject matter of George Orwell, Thomas Hardy and G.K.Chesterton. Before and after the eponymous film starring Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant. Lissen up Hollywood moguls: One. Buy as much property as you can in the worst section of LA. Two. Package a romantic comedy set in that section of town. Three. Collect your money. I had bankers coming round my flat every six to eight months offering me 100,000 Pounds just to live there. Of course I stupidly signed on the dotted line. After losing my home in London three years ago, I came back to LA to take care of my sick mother, to resume dating a woman I was newly in love with (in other words: she really didn’t know me that well yet) and to try and co-produce the film based on my experience with Jerry Lewis, alongside and under the mentor-ship of a very well respected and accomplished Oscar winning producer who looked like Danny DeVito and talked like Joe Pesci. Steven Alan Green and Julian Krainin’s “How I Nearly Killed Jerry Lewis” or “Why Dean Drank” had the buzz of top Hollywood actors and directors; as it was/is a great story of Shakespearian proportions. A very dysfunctional comedian is saved by his childhood hero, who ultimately befriends him, then lets him down, nearly dying in his arms, causing the comedian to reconcile with his dead father. Hilarious right? In real life: Jerry Lewis was both my best friend and worst enemy. And, thus that became the pervasive narrative in my head: Was Jerry Lewis ever really my friend? And in the end, who in Hollywood is EVER our “friend”? And, I thought I had it all categorized and sorted. But, when I started to lose my mind…Scratch that. I don’t think you ever can notice when you “start” to lose your mind. I think it's more like suddenly noticing the cat licking itself. Maybe I better not talk too much about my own sometimes questionable mental health. The best way people can get to know me, and to trust me, is to simply be me for one day. Be the man who nearly and accidentally killed Jerry Lewis.
Lisa Coburn, a great lady, good friend and daughter of the late great James Coburn, called me up, inviting me to her Christmas party. Lisa says to me, “Steven, I would love to have you come to my Christmas party…..but you have to promise me you will leave Jerry Lewis at home.” What on earth was she talking about? I don’t live with Jerry Lewis? Lisa explained to me that apparently (I have no proof of this unfathomable fantasy one way or the other) I had gained a reputation of constantly talking to anyone and everyone about what Jerry Lewis did to me, my life, my show, my business, etc, etc and that I had been boring her friends to tears, almost as badly as if I were indeed Jerry Lewis himself showing up uninvited for breakfast, fast-talking about film theory, when you’re just trying to chew, swallow and transport. Once I realized Lisa was right, that I must have engendered said reputation, I fessed up and said, “You know what, Lisa…I can do that. No problem!” So, I gets (not a typo) to Lisa Coburn’s and it’s a full party. John Barrymore, Mellissa Torme March, Stephen Hawking: all sorts of interesting showbiz and literary people and plenty of traif. What more could a nice non-practicing Jew want. (oy, I’m gonna get emails!) I sit down on the couch, biting my lip until it nearly bleeds, thinking of Willie Mays, as I repeat over and over in my head: “Do not say the words: Jerry Lewis”. Rick Overton sits down next to me and talks with another comedian. “Did you see that comedian on HBO last night? I’m telling you, man, he was amazing! His physical movements…just like Jerry Lewis!” I slowly get up and zombie walk (continuing to repeat my mantra) to the other side of the living room where there was the entrance to the video lounge. I went in for shelter. They were playing blues videos. Guess who was on. Jerry Lee Lewis. I about faced it like Bilko getting busted and who should coming running after me, but none other than Lisa Glucksman, daughter of the late Ernie Glucksman, who directed Jerry on the ground-breaking Colgate Comedy Hour. “Steven! Let me tell you what Jerry did to my father! You know my father blah, blah, blah, and Jerry blah blah blah blah” I picked up my coat, left Lisa’s party very quietly and proud that I fulfilled Lisa’s wishes of my not mentioning Jerry Lewis to anyone. I didn’t have to; everyone else did it for me. And that would continue to happen again and again and again and in more bizarre ways.
In 2009, The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences was honoring Jerry Lewis with the Jean Hersholtz Award for Philanthropy, for all the great things Jerry Lewis has done to help bring awareness, and most importantly money (which buys invaluable life-saving and life-improving research) to his life-long pet cause, that of finding a cure for Muscular Dystrophy. Jerry Lewis has saved and bettered tens of thousands of lives; make no mistake about that. I’m sure Jerry was fully appreciative and humbled of receiving recognition for his massive philanthropic achievement, but I betcha, inside, Jerry was secretly a little miffed, as I know I would be. The Academy has never honored him artistically for his incredible worthy life’s body of film work. I mean, the comedian who broke the modern forth wall? Or the comedian who appealed to all ages at once? The comedian who has run the gauntlet of the critics, whom he all proved wrong? The comedian who succeeded in all areas of ShowBiz? Or the irrefutable fact that Jerry Lewis remains the only person to ever dominate both movies and television at the same time. Jim Carrey never did that. He was one, then the other. Jerry Lewis was number one in television and movies at the same time. Forget the Video-Assist. Jerry invented the Comedy-Assist. Jerry Lewis, for all his faults; for all his flaws: Vanity, compulsiveness, erratic and condescending behavior, are really only minor blips (if not indicators of) of one of the greatest comedic science minds of all time. If the Oscars had a comedy category, Jerry would dominate, but they don’t and Jerry would agree with me that the reason they don’t is that they don’t understand comedy and how it works. I got news for you all. Nobody does. Pure Comedy as a value unto itself sometimes gets lost in Hollywood, in the very same odd way the MDA spookily erased the patron saint of sick children Jerry Lewis from their future branding. What numbskulls. That’s just dumb business. The Tonight Show With Jay Leno is a completely different show than The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. Johnny was the star. Jay is just “with”. Maybe that’s ‘cause Jay is more of a regular guy than Johnny and Jay’s tip of the hat to his hero. Be that as it may, beyond a doubt, Jerry Lewis is living proof, that just like nuclear power, you have to accept the bad with the good with everybody. Jerry just happens to be better at both than most. That’s his sin. My sin was yet to be revealed. As my friend and oft personal guru, Beano says, “I like people. It’s their behavior I sometimes have trouble with.” And Hitler was an excellent dancer.
Here I was, in the third balcony of the Kodak Theatre, peering down upon the man who was both the greatest and worst thing to ever happen to me. The man who helped me create a disaster. The man who broke my dream in two. The man, whom I seriously thought was the bestest friend I ever had. Imagine being a kid getting drunk with Santa Claus. That’s what being friends with Jerry Lewis was like. A nobody comedian of no time, connecting on a very deep level with the greatest comedian of all times. As I watched Robert DeNiro extol his appreciation for and to Sean Penn, I flashed back seven years ago, to when I was happy and hopeful and frankly, building a business. Like all the horrible events in life (war, funerals, marriage) things usually begin with a formal invitation. My misadventure with self-proclaimed “Super Jew” himself, a former skinny kid from Jersey not known as Joseph Levitch, the man who brought laughter and salvation to the once tear-stained cheeks of a little boy lost in the middle of an horrific divorce, the great Jerry Lewis was no different than a Christmas party, and too required a formal invitation.
……and so in closing, in honor of your great accomplishments in Comedy and Charity, I hereby invite you to come to London (First Class travel and accommodations) to perform at The London Palladium and receive the first ever High On Laughter Award. I thank you for your kind consideration and very much look forward to hearing from you.
Steven Alan Green
As I drove down to meet my childhood hero, little did I know, I would be drafted and braced to go down in Show Biz History, as the man who inadvertently nearly killed Jerry Lewis.
September 8th, 2002
Sunday night at the London Palladium
The audience had been enthralled by twelve great comedians from the US and the UK, including Zach Galifiniakis, Bobcat Goldthwait, Emo Philips, Paul Provenza, Rick Overton, Boothby Graffoe, Earl Okin, Rick Right, Jim Gaffigan, Shelagh Martin, and the pretty-great yours truly. All of us went up on that great plank of wood still scuffed by the shoe tattoos of Laurel & Hardy, Abbott and Costello, Judy Garland; and of course, Martin & Lewis. This was my show now, not Budd Friedman’s or Mitzi Shore’s. I was the producer. The man in charge. Over eight months of prep-work, investing my life savings by re-mortgaging my Notting Hill multi-level flat along with the hardened experience of two previous years’ High On Laughter shows, made this show the biggest of my career. Career? Who was I kidding. I was a mid-forties comedy refuge and this was just another pathetic —albeit, very expensive—showcase. High on Laughter is a comedy-charity show I created that benefits Turning Point Scotland, a drug and alcohol charity launched by Princess Diana. I had gained a small buzz, doing my infamous “farewell performances only” stand-up act, where I told every audience I was “addicted to the laughter and had to quit” and every show was my last. I performed over 5,000 “farewell performances” in 16 years, and now I wanted to help real addicts as a poetic gesture of goodwill. Plus, the charity endorsed me. Peter Grahame, one of my best mates, who runs the oldest and best comedy club in London (Downstairs at The Kings Head) slowly makes his way over to me backstage that Sunday night of “The Palladium Incident.” I could see the look in his face. It wasn’t good.
“Steven, Jerry won’t come out of his dressing room until you leave the theatre.” I looked Peter in the eye; he was dead serious. One of the most jovial and trusted movers and shakers on the British Comedy Scene was now telling me something I just couldn’t believe I was hearing. My star (and one-time childhood idol) the one and only Jerry Lewis, the man whom I was giving a lifetime achievement award to for all his contributions to Comedy and Charity, had told my show-runner, that before he’d come out of his dressing room to accept the award I was giving him, I, the producer of this show, the financier of this show, the creator of the show, would have to immediately leave my own theatre. I can still feel my own eyeballs popping out of my head like a Tex Avery cartoon character. This was my baby, my pride and joy! Not his! This one I was filming for television. But after three months of working with Jerry Lewis I was at the end of my rope. Jerry had pulled out of the show one too many times. He would call me up daily, either in tears over the state of his career (“What am I gonna do, sell men’s shoes?”) OR frothing at the mouth angry with me for what reason I never knew (“I eat people like you for breakfast!... or lunch!…depending on when I wake up!”) OR as the most gentle, professional and courteous collaborator I ever worked with (“Steven, you and I stand on the same part of the stage.”). But, I managed to survive the inconsistencies in Mr. Lewis’s personality. I finessed my way around; I cajoled Jerry by reminding him how “They’re gonna love you in London!” or by laughing at his truly funny banter. He was a handful, for sure. But, I think that’s exactly what he liked about me. I too was a handful. A handful of piss and vinegar and for once in his lifetime and career-time, he was not dealing with the usual types: sycophants that stars – legendary stars – surround themselves with. The biggest, most obnoxious ShowBiz ego of all time had finally met his match. A short-tempered, unappreciated in his own country comedy loser, who found respectability, fame, and a fleeting fortune in a European country. Jerry Lewis was dealing with Steven Alan Green. God save his clownish soul. I camouflaged myself amongst the bizarre Tim Burton-like sets and props from the West End production of “Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang,” and what I was about to see was one of the saddest things I’d ever witness in my entire life.
Driving down to San Diego to meet Jerry three months earlier, I was starving. Jerry had told me to “Bring a big appetite!,” and so I inhaled a muffin, washed it down with some instant and got on the 405. My heart was doing 90 in the slow lane. Time was beginning to change all around me. I’m going to meet the great Jerry Lewis! On his yacht! Wow, Steven, how far you’ve come! (Oh, no. I haven’t even passed through Irvine.) I get to the big hotel, I ask for “Jerry Lewis’s yacht” and was pointed where to go. I went to a gate where I was met by Jack, one of Jerry’s assistants, who walked me to a beautiful classically appointed boat, representing the world-class accomplishments of a great man. I go on board, down the stairs to the cabin. And, right there, sitting at his computer, was Jerry Lewis. Now bloated beyond belief like some surreal Thanksgiving Day parade balloon (the result of him taking Prednisone, a steroid that saved his life), Jerry pointed a camera at me and shouted, “Say cheese!” A flash went off and I was now, and forever, in Jerry’s World.
The first story Jerry told me was about Steven Spielberg. How after E.T. premiered in Cannes, the Jaws-dropping director got an incredible standing-O, which just wouldn’t stop. Spielberg, as if he were merely an actor who had just performed Richard III for The Queen, directs the audience to a royal box and elegantly bows. King Jerry stands up and waves graciously to his loyal subjects. I snap out of it. Where’s this flippin’ lunch? Jerry asks me if I’d like another Popsicle. A what? Two-and-a-half hours of Jerry telling me this story and that story. How he got drunk with Peter Sellers, partied hard with Jack & Bobby Kennedy, Peter Lawford and, of course, Marilyn. He was handing me loose chapters of his upcoming book, “Dean and Me,” assistants were giving me more and more popsicles, so much so, that I had to excuse myself several times to pish, and once in his bathroom, I couldn’t help but notice the multitudes of antibacterial hand sanitizers. When I came back to the main cabin, Jerry does what Jerry does best. He takes over. Jerry Lewis listed – as if I was his Errand Boy – what he needed from me. Seven people traveling with him, First Class, Five-Star accommodations, 24-hour limo & security, a giant video screen, plus a 36-piece orchestra. On exit, I told him I was filming the entire thing. He said, “Fine! But I charge $150,000 for 12-month worldwide rights!” I was okay with that. I had Jerry Lewis. What was I worried about? I left in search of a burger and drove back to LA. The next morning, he calls me up, his voice all nasty-like.
“Steven Alan Green? This is Jerry Lewis.
I’m not doing your show!”
And without missing a beat, I said, “Good! Who the hell needs you!”
Jerry laughed and we became instant friends. Scratch that…we became partners. Scratch that too. He became my boss. He’d be calling me up every day. I was going on Buffy auditions, the phone was ringing off the hook, I was praying it wasn’t Jerry Lewis. The High On Laughter Award? Jerry wanted me to call it The Charlie Chaplin Award, but when I checked with The Chaplin Estate in Paris, and they said “No way, nes pas?” Jerry harrumphed and said, “That’s Okay. We’ll call it The Jerry Lewis Award!” (“And the nominees are: Jerry Lewis…Jerry Lewis….Jerry Lewis…Jerry Lewis….and Myron Pickleman.”) I was actually giving Jerry Lewis, the first ever Jerry Lewis Award. (Can you see why my last psychiatrist actually fired me as a patient?) Meanwhile, my publicist in London never even heard of Jerry Lewis and thought I was bringing over Jerry LEE Lewis! And it turns out most of modern day Britain never heard of him either. After all, England is another world; they never even heard of Jay Leno or Dennis Miller. Why? They don’t get HBO or NBC over in England. I needed a film star. A legend. And because Jerry had reneged on his very important promise to give me two weeks for press interviews, to be there for me, even though he said: “Steven, nobody knows what it’s like to produce a big show like I do, I’m gonna be there every step of the way,” on the word of our publicist, just for insurance, I booked a gifted British comedian sight unseen, who had just won the prestigious Perrier Award up at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Daniel Kitson’s opening line, as Jerry had locked himself in the dressing room with my wife Tamsin, telling her he was upset with me for making the advertising say: “Starring Jerry Lewis” but he wanted “Honoring Jerry Lewis” (which he never told me) the two bodyguards in my employ were now telling me, “We work for Mr. Lewis now” and not allowing me access to my star…The British dysfunctional comedic genius Daniel Kitson’s opening line was: “It’s always been a dream of mine to play a third-full Palladium to people who’ve come to see a dying man.” And indeed, it seemed as if that little joke was all about to sadly come true…
The stage was set. The 18-piece orchestra sat in front of a giant projected “High On Laughter” logo, instruments in their laps, no musical charts because someone in Jerry’s crew forgot them and when I asked Jerry about them at rehearsal, he screamed at me again, but this time in front of the entire crew: “I’ve been in Show Business for 50 years! I’ll give you a show and you’ll like it!” Bobcat Goldthwait (whose earlier set stole the show) returned to the stage to the mass approval of the audience. You could just feel the anticipation. Showing sincere appreciation for his chaotic comedic soul-mate, Bobcat introduced the clips, explaining that, “Jerry Lewis didn’t just pave the comedy road we’ve all conveniently travelled on; he pretty much invented it.” The giant video screen descends and my heart literally stopped, as I realized that this was a huge moment, not just for me, but for my friend Jerry. Black and White Buster Keaton Jerry, Vegas Nightclub Jerry, Telethon Jerry, Errand Boy Jerry, Cinderfella Jerry; all of them, sparkling like comedic Rushmore moments in time; Dean Martin mysteriously absent from them all. The live audience at the Palladium laughed alongside the relatively ancient audiences recorded in some of the video. I was seeing my dream come true. That I, Steven Alan Green, once considered the worst thing you could call a comedian: unfunny; having discovered the ugly duckling truth that another country – a much smarter and older country’s culture, would appreciate even a lowly wretch like me for what they saw as, “Brilliant!”—was now sharing my archeological find (the great British comedians and audiences) with the world. I believed that, indeed I was in fact resuscitating the fallen career of my childhood hero. Looking back at it now, I must’ve been crazy, and if you can add all that up and hold it in your mind’s breath for just a moment, then let the reality of the following situation become your exhale.
As I hid in the wings, watching the comedy genius who turned my childhood tears to laughter, stand on the opposite end of the Palladium stage, staring up at the video clips on the giant screen, of himself fifty years previous, thin, young and at the top of his game…then watching The King of Comedy wistfully look out at the less than sold-out house, and then…and then….he
COLLAPSES! Boom! To the floor! I literally said out loud to myself: “I’ve just killed Jerry Lewis.” Oxygen (which he conveniently had demanded last minute before he’d get on the plane from Vegas) was rushed to his side. I had to go out on stage and announce that “Unfortunately, Jerry Lewis was taken ill and taken to hospital…pray for Jerry,” that announcement getting on the AP and reported worldwide. Jerry was stretchered out to an ambulance, briefly smiling while removing the oxygen mask, simply to whisper to his filmmaking friend Pierre Etaix (whom I flew in from Paris at Jerry’s request) “I’m okay, Pierre!” But, I wasn’t so sure my friend was okay.
The bodyguards (still on my payroll and yet mysteriously now in Jerry’s control) were now guarding the ambulance at the back of the Palladium as if it was a mobile Rat Pack wet-bar and I was Jack Carter. They wouldn’t let me near King Tut. The ambulance screeched off down Oxford Circus, slowly strobed by a pathetically small flutter of paparazzi flash, which magically seemed like Medieval fireflies as seen through the prism of light English drizzle. The official report from the London Ambulance service was, “a man whom we cannot name, was picked up at the stage door at the London Palladium on or about 11pm on the 8th of September, 2002, was treated on site for minor exhaustion and taken directly back to the Dorchester Hotel.” I can’t prove it, but my guess is that passenger was probably Jerry Lewis. My announcement made international news as The King of the Pratfalls flew back across the pond home the next day on my dime, without so much as a “would you like my autograph?” I later heard he told Gareth Valentine, the orchestra leader, moments before, “If I fall, just leave me there.” And the endless repeating question began, as every comedian, every comedy agent, and every club owner asked me the same exact goddam question. A question, which, to this day – nearly 10 years later – I still cannot begin to answer.
"Did Jerry Lewis – the King of the Pratfalls – fake his collapse?” My answer to everyone was always, “Jerry Lewis is the greatest comedian to have ever lived. Jerry Lewis is my friend,” and then I’d walk away wondering if they bought any of it. After all, although every contemporary comedian is completely fascinated with Jerry Lewis himself, few of them will ever admit he indeed is their secret comedy pleasure. Tamsin and I sent the award to Jerry’s address in Vegas, but we never heard from our friend again. As I stood on Chelsea Bridge, watching the London sunset vaguely illuminate Big Ben in eerie orange, I thought to myself: “Now I know why Dean drank.” I smiled and laughed to myself then walked down to the nearest pub for a nice cold glass of Guinness and a Cuban cigar. Little did I know that my future would so be forged of these events. But, that’s Life, isn’t it. Just when you think you’re on top…You’re reminded, that just like the rest of us schmucks, you’re always gonna be somebody’s patsy, sometime.
Enjoy the Veal,
Steven Alan Green
LIFE AT JIMMY WOO'S IS ALWAYS IMENSELY INTERESTING....
It’s a story unto itself. I’ve been meaning to write more about it, and I will. Suffice to say, the Lombard Hostel is populated by crazy, kooky creative hipsters, including yours truly. Software developers, writers, travelers and I’m even producing a night of Karaoke downstairs at Jimmy Woo’s restaurant. It’s all good, Ladies and Germans, as we say. It’s all good. Stay tuned, keep on keepin’ on and stay funny out there. And, don't forget to SHUT THE FRONT DOOR!!
PAST GUESTS INCLUDE: Gerry Bednob, "Jaws" & "The Jerk" screenwriter Carl Gottlieb, Comedy Gu-rah Beth Lapides, Political Comedian Will Durst, British comedian (and musical genius and sex symbol) Earl Okin. With contributions from Tamsin Hollo, Liz Leshin and Ritch Shydner's Comedy History.
FUTURE GUESTS INCLUDE: Comedian and actor Rick Overton, "Letterman comedian" Karen Rontowsky, comedian writer and storyteller Dylan Brody, Hollywood actor Andy Dick!
READ WHAT STAGE TIME WITH STEVEN ALAN GREEN FAN KEVIN CRITES WROTE:
(And no, SAG did not pay me to write this)
FACEBOOK TWEETS OF THE WEEK
Well, I'm hitting the sack, which sounds vaguely masturbatorial.
The first part of life is the set-up. The second part of life is the punchline. And, death is the ultimate heckle.
If one more customer service employee responds to my "thank you" with "no problem," there's gonna be a fucking problem.
That moment in life when you feel completely content, is the same moment you realize that life is a completely meaningless random bureaucracy, intended on daily soul destroying purposeless ritual, with the zero sum gain of becoming a rotting corpse.
FROM THE JOKES FROM THE PAST DEPARTMENT: "If Cher was a lawyer, she'd work pro bono." Thank ewe!...!
I wanna open a tattoo parlor for the blind. We'd specialize in goose bump American eagles.
Here's the big lesson I learned today. Never, I mean always.. I meant to say sometimes. The lesson is never doubt yourself. Or, least doubt yourself, only sometimes. No, that's not right. Nevermind. Time for beer.
The Halal meat business is real cut-throat.
My great great great great great great great grandfather is doing a lot better. Thanks for all the prayers, good wishes and time travel.
I was deducted by alien accountants.
I want to be arrested by The Secret Police. That way, I'll bring my Secret Lawyer.
Thomas Edison realized that the light bulb was merely a filament of his imagination.
I'm so pissed off, I might just actually do something positive.
Just signed up on a website. They said the password had to have seven characters, so I made the password: "Snowwhiteslittlefriends".
Ladies Love the Punchline. Mary-Alice McNab (my fave), Anna Seregina, Queenie TT, Layla Baird, Dhaya Lakshminarayanan, and headliner Marga Gomez, bring a great evening of comedy, Tuesday, June 4, starting @ 8pm.
Dan Dion's Reception @ Cresta's 2211. Join Comedy Photographer Extraordinaire Dan Dion, as he exhibits some of his faves, Thursday, June 6 @ 6pm.
Comedy Bottle with Brendan Lynch @ The Purple Onion @ Kells, Friday, June 7 @ 8:30pm.
The Obligatory June Gay Comedy Night @ The El Rio in the Mission. Lisa Geduldig presents a great line-up for what is sure to be a great show! Monday, June 10 @ 8pm.
Danny Dechi Comedy @ 3rd Anniversary of Comedy at Bazaar Café, Wednesday, June 19th, Free Cake!
Chris Valenti Live at Genghis Cohen. Comedian/singer/songwriter Valenti dishes out his very unique, stylish and hilarious tunes for you, as you chow down on chow mein. Saturday, June 8 @ 9pm.
"Love Buckets," featuring Frank Black. Dana Gould, Laura Krafft and Jon Daly & more, create something, I'm not quite sure what it is, but it looks great! Tuesday, June 11 @ 8:30pm.
Thursday 6th June 2013 Clapham Comedy Club @ The Bread & Roses : Ian Cognito - Ian Cognito is Richard Burton meets Lenny Bruce. A character, a total madman, a real comedian, whose rare appearances are always risky.
Guffaw Comedy Club's Edinburgh Festival Preview Week: AN UNBELIEVABLE WEEK OF TOP-CLASS STAND-UP COMEDY FEATURING SOME OF THE VERY BEST COMICS IN THE COUNTRY SUCH AS RUSSELL KANE, MARY BOURKE, GORDON SOUTHERN AND ALAN FRANCIS, NOT TO MENTION A FEW LEGENDS OFF THE TELLY SUCH AS RICHARD HERRING, MARK THOMAS, SIMON MUNNERY AND SIMON DONALD, CO-CREATOR OF VIZ MAGAZINE - July 1 at 8:30pm until July 8 at 11:30pm in UTC+01.
NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE:
'Gagspotting' - Patrick Monahan & Vladimir McTavish! (+ support); a great comedy combo plus @ Hoochie Coochie, Pilgrim Street, NE1 Newcastle upon Tyne, Tuesday, July 9 @7pm.
ODDZ 'N ENDZ
IN MEMORIAM: JEAN STAPLETON AS EDITH BUNKER AS VIEWED THROUGH A HAIGHT STREET HIPPY HEAD SHOP
To have your comedy show reviewed or hire Steven as a writer, comedian, keynote speaker: email@example.com. I work as a Developmental Editor. If you have an unpublished manuscript gathering dust, I will help you take it to the next level and transformed into a saleable eBook. Contact me, no job too big or too small: firstname.lastname@example.org. Hollywood film & TV writing jobs for Steven Alan Green, contact: Noah Jones @ The Gersh Agency (310) 205-5836. Follow Enjoy the Veal on Facebook, and The Laughter Foundation and on Facebook. Never take life too seriously, you'll never get out of it alive!
SAG, SF 6/2/13
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