Tag Archives: Riffmaster & The Rockme Foundation

Stuff Riffmaster Knows: The Beatles & Their Gear

Riff Banner28127_10150190489000591_536200590_12508602_5992375_nI’ve been playing in a rock and roll band with Riffmaster Peter Van Wagner since the very early 1980’s. Not only is Pete a gifted shredder of the Fender Stratocaster, he knows more about rock and roll than it’s probably healthy to know. Especially where it concerns The Beatles — who, Pete will happily tell you, he actually saw live at Shea Stadium. (Pete was also at Woodstock. Yeah. That Woodstock.)

Young Riffmaster with axe.

Young Riffmaster with axe.

Over the years, my band mates have exchanged thousands of Emails in an informative and entertaining chain of rock trivia, history and lore that is sometimes staggering in its detail. Never more so than when our own guitar hero, Riffmaster Pete Van Wagner, drills down into the details of the equipment used by The Fab Four.

What follows is an Email that Riffmaster recently sent. Riff’s response was prompted by a photo of The Beatles in the studio, Emailed to the band by our brilliant drummer, Rockin’ Ronny Crawford.

From the Riffmaster:

What’s got me going a little bit crazy is the tan Vox amps in the September 1962 Black Eye studio photos. Prices for these amps have gone through the roof on the vintage market. But what’s the story with The Beatles’ tan Vox amps? I’ve always seen them with black Vox amps. When I first saw these photos I thought that maybe the amps were Abbey Road studio amps.

1 Riff

In earlier 1962 photos The Beatles are seen at the Cavern playing Gibson and Fender tweed amps.

This is April ’62:

2 Riff

That’s George’s Gibson GA-40 amp on the left behind John. That’s John’s Fender Deluxe amp on the right behind Paul. That’s Pete on the drums.  Also note John’s Rickenbacker guitar, that he bought in Hamburg, is still it’s original Natural tan color.  More on this later.

But here they are at band practice at the Cavern with Ringo in August. Pete’s out, Ringo’s in. The old Fender and Gibson amps are gone and the tan Vox amps are in. Hmmm. So I guess they are The Beatles’ amps, not Abbey Road’s.

4 Riff3 Riff

Here they are at the Cavern not long after the September recording session. Black Vox amps. Also shirts, vests and ties.  Brian Epstein’s been here. Note Ringo’s drum head still reading “Ringo Starr.” My brain is starting to hurt. The happy faces indicate how happy the Boys were with their free new Vox amps — and with Ringo Starr on skins.

5 Riff

Luckily I have the book, The Beatles Gear.  Hopefully I’ll find answers there.

Here’s the story:

d1343f6b36d6a7d549fb9996a2adad91The Beatles came into EMI’s Abbey Road studios to record “Love Me Do” and three other tunes using their old Gibson, Fender and Paul’s TruVoice amp with what’s been called a coffin speaker cabinet. The TruVoice hummed a lot and the other amps weren’t much better. George Martin told Brian Epstein that The Beatles would need professional gear if they were going to continue to be recording artists. George also told Brian at this time that for the next session he, George, would provide a drummer as Pete wasn’t up to the task.  

Brian went out to buy new amplifiers but was told that the Beatles still owed money for the TruVoice amp.  Brian payed off the Beatles’ unpaid loans to Hessy’s Music shop in Liverpool and bought the tan Vox amps for George and John.  Paul continued to use the Coffin speaker cab (on the far right in the picture above) with an unknown amp powering it.  Hessy’s suggested to Brian the he contact Vox and try to work out a deal with Vox direct.  Brian did and was given the black Vox AC30 amps in exchange for free use of The Beatles in any Vox promotion.  And so it was that The Beatles were given free Vox amps for their entire career and Vox got to use the Beatles as free endorsers for years to come.

Note below: John’s Rickenbacker has now been refinished in black.

6 Riff

Shea Stadium 1966.  Their last tour.  I’m sitting over on the first base line with my cousin Michelle.

7 Riff

2 Comments

Filed under Art, History, Music, rock & roll

ObamaCare & Italy & Everything Else — Blog 2013: The Fourth Year In Review.

New Year'sObamacareitaly-banner-1 S&GFor my family and me, 2013 ended on an upbeat note with “Mr. Olsen’s New Year’s Rockin’ Neighborhood” — a raucous, sold-out celebration of comedy and rock & roll at 27 Live in Evanston, Illinois. The weather was bitterly cold but there was a delightful, enveloping warmth in our comic camaraderie with longtime friends, bandmates, fellow Northwestern University alums and members of The Practical Theatre Company.

P&EvaI even got to sing duets with my college roommate and fellow Practical Theatre founder, Brad Hall (as Simon & Garfunkel, above) — and with my daughter, Eva.

We closed the evening with two spirited sets by Riffmaster & The Rockme Foundation, the band I’ve been playing with since the early 1980’s. There’s no better way to ring in the New Year than by rocking with your best buddies. All in all, it was a wonderful way to say goodbye to 2013 and hello to 2014.

suess-graphic-cruz26nI’ll be candid. For some reason, 2013 was not a very prolific year for this blog. I don’t know whether it was the fact that the excitement of the 2012 Presidential election gave way to Congressional constipation courtesy of the recalcitrant, reactionary Tea Party bloc in the House of Reps — or that the rollout of the Affordable Care Act led to the dispiriting madness of the government shutdown. I managed to get off a few broadsides skewering the likes of Senator Ted Cruz (Tea Party, TX) — but the I should have written more in defense of President Obama and progressive politics. (Though my most commented-on post in 2013 was President Obama Goes to War.) Still, I resolve to do a better job of blogging on politics in 2014.

ItalyBThe highlight of 2013 was our family’s two-week trip to Italy and the provinces of Tuscany and Umbria in August. I tried to sum up the experience in an article entitled, Our Italian Adventure. I could easily have written a series of blog posts on each of the beautiful cities and towns we visited, the artwork we saw, the food we ate, and the people we met — but I stuffed the whole, glorious journey into one account. To make amends to my readers I promise that, before too long, I will post a link to the movie we shot on the grounds of Camporsevoli. Stay tuned…

2013 was the fourth year for this blog — and here are the year’s vital signs:

Paul’s Voyage of Discovery & Etc. has attracted 164,472 views since it began four years ago. There were 34,572 visits in 2013. I’ve posted 299 articles since this blog began. This post is #3oo: certainly a notable milestone.

This is not the real subscription sign up box. The real one is further to the right. And up a little…

I am honored that 147 subscribers have now signed on to have my posts automatically delivered to them via e-mail. (And 43 more folks follow this blog on Twitter.) Are you a subscriber? If you’re not — then look to your right at the photo of the saluting Matey and follow the simple instructions to “Hop Aboard!”

The search terms that readers used most to find this blog were “Pearl Harbor”, “Occupy Wall Street”, “trial by jury”, “Bill of Rights” and “Pickett’s Charge”. And these are the posts that readers were most attracted to this year…

What follows is a list of The Top Ten Most Popular Posts of 2013.

Just click on the title of each post to access the original article.

1. Victory at Pearl HarborPearl Harbor

Originally posted in 2010 on the anniversary of the “day that will live in infamy” – this post has become an annual event. A lot of military history fans visit this blog, but I think Pearl Harbor fascinates and resonates with Americans whether they have an interest in military history or not. The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks took more American lives – but Pearl Harbor was the shocking opening act in a drama that ultimately made the United States the world’s preeminent superpower.

2. Happy Birthday Bill of Rights!

On December 15, 2010 – the 215th birthday of our Bill of Rights – I wrote this basic primer on the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution and it’s become one of the most-read posts in the history of this blog. I guess that’s because Americans still give a damn about their rights and are keen to understand their Constitutional foundation.

3. A Childhood Memory of Kent State, May 4. 1970Kent State

On the May 4, 2012 anniversary of this very dark day in America history, I posted this personal remembrance of a young Ohioan’s earliest memories of that terrible day. Unlike the Pearl Harbor post, I haven’t re-posted this article every year — but readers still find it. “Tin soldiers and Nixon coming.” The shootings at Kent State should never be forgotten.

4. The Top Ten Rock & Roll Singers of All Time

singerbanner1

There’s nothing like a Top 10 list to promote discussion on a blog – and this December 5, 2011 post did just that. Check it out – and then weigh in with your own opinion. Just realize that your opinion on rock & roll singing cannot possibly be as informed as my own.

5. The Occupy Wall Street Movement Doesn’t Need Black Bloc Buffooneryblackboc

Though we didn’t hear much about it in 2013,  the Occupy Wall Street movement has inspired a lot of posts on this blog since 2011. This post, written on November 2, 2011, has proven to be the most popular. Maybe that’s because people agree that we don’t need a bunch of foolish, immature anarchists screwing up a noble movement that ultimately helped to put Barrack Obama back in office. Without Occupy Wall Street, would Romney’s attack on the 47% have evoked such a profound and spirited response? Without Occupy Wall Street, would the concept of the 99% and 1% have ever entered the Zeitgeist?

6. My Book Report: “The Battle of Midway”midway

What a great book! What an amazing chapter of world history! On January 23, 2012, I wrote this review of a book that captures all the incredible heroism, good luck, and turns of fate that made this epic World War Two naval battle an overwhelming victory that turned the tide of the war against Imperial Japan. In 2013, I write another book report on an excellent World War Two account, The Day of Battle, about the campaign to liberate Italy. A few weeks after I wrote that post, my family visited the American cemetery in Tuscany and paid our respects to the soldiers whose valor, sacrifice and victory are recounted in Rick Atkinson’s fine book.

7. LeBron: The King Moves Onlebron-banner-2

As a Cleveland native, I’ve often been asked my opinion of LeBron James leaving the Cavaliers several years ago — and my friends and co-workers are usually shocked that I’m not upset or indignant or jilted, etc. And while the blogosphere hardly needed one more commentary on LeBron James’ move to the Miami Heat, I wrote this post on July 9, 2010 to explain that LeBron James didn’t owe me anything. He’s a professional basketball player who wants to win and be remembered as the best to play the game. The two NBA championships he’s won in Miami since I wrote this post have given LeBron all the scoreboard he needs.

8. Growing Up in the Space Age

The last American space shuttle launch inspired this July 14, 2011 remembrance of my personal connection to the Space Age. This popular post salutes my fellow Ohioan, John Glenn, who served as both the first man to orbit the Earth and as a Senator from my home state. I wish that my three daughters had grown up experiencing something half as exciting and inspirational as The Race to the Moon.

9. The Wrecking Crew

Glen Campbell, Hal Blaine, Carol Kay, Tommy Tedesco, Leon Russell, Earl Palmer: the cream of Los Angeles studio musicians in the late 50’s, 60’s and early 70’s became known as “The Wrecking Crew”. I’m thrilled that my March 21, 2011 blog article celebrating Tommy Tedesco’s son’s marvelous documentary film about these rock & roll legends has proven to be such a popular post. If you haven’t done it already, do a Google search on “The Wrecking Crew”. Until then, your rock & roll education is not complete.

10. The Matey’s Log: Sailing Season Begins raceheader

This post recounted a sailboat race held on February 13, 2010.  It was a good thing that the race was being run the day before Valentine’s Day. Like golf, sailing is a sport that takes men out of the house for long stretches of time on the weekend. But sailboat racing is worse than golf because it’s never certain when you’ll be done. 18 holes of golf always take about the same amount of time to complete. The duration of a sailboat race depends upon the vagaries of the wind and conditions on the water. I don’t sail as much as I used to to — but I still love it. And I’ll continue to report on my sailing adventures in the new year.

So, that’s the best of 2013. Stay connected. Subscribe. And please keep posting your comments!

Here’s to another fine voyage in 2014!

And here are the All-Time Top 10 Blog Posts from January 2010 up to today:

1. Happy Birthday Bill of Rights!

2. Victory at Pearl Harbor

3. The Occupy Wall Street Movement Doesn’t Need Black Bloc Buffoonery

4. History & Honeymoon: Part Three

This post was the #3 post in 2010. 24 years ago, my wife Victoria and I went to Gettysburg and other Civil War battlefields on our honeymoon! I needed no other assurance that I had married the perfect woman. On our 20th anniversary, we returned to Gettysburg. Now both students of the battle, we walked the battlefield on July 1, 2 and 3, 2010 on the 147th anniversary of that critical conflict. My four-part account of our battlefield tramping became one of the most popular items on the blog. (Originally posted July 20, 2010)

5. A Childhood Memory of Kent State, May 4. 1970

6. Aliens Among Us?

I’ve always wondered where singular, epochal, “out of this world” geniuses like William Shakespeare, Leonardo da Vinci and Bob Dylan came from. So, on January 26, 2011, I wrote this speculation on the possible alien origin of such monumental minds. Evidently, my curiosity (if not my Erich Van Daniken “ancient astronaut” fantasy) is still shared by a lot of people who read my blog in the past year.

7. Growing Up in the Space Age

8. The Top Ten Rock & Roll Singers of All Time

9. Bazooka Joe, Jay Lynch & Me

One of the first posts I wrote for this blog back on January 9, 2010 celebrated my brief but soul-satisfying collaboration with the legendary underground comix artist, Jay Lynch, who gave Vic and I the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to write a series of Bazooka Joe comics. It was one of the great chapters in my creative career. The Practical Theatre Company, Saturday Night LiveBehind the Music, The Vic & Paul Show and Bazooka Joe. Classics all. Can I retire now?

10. History & Honeymoon: Part Four

2011 was the 150th anniversary of the commencement of the American Civil War – and the Civil War Sesquicentennial is likely the reason that two of my “History & Honeymoon” posts are still among the most-read this past year, including this one, first posted on July 26, 2010. This post covers everything from my wife Victoria and I battle tramping Pickett’s Charge on the third day of Gettysburg –to our visit to Philadelphia and the eccentric, visionary artwork of Isaiah Zagar.

1 Comment

Filed under Adventure, Art, Comedy, History, Politics, Sailing, Sports, Travel

Just 4 Days Until The Funniest, Most Rocking New Year’s Party Ever!

Mr Olsen Poster 2A splendid time is guaranteed for all this New Year’s Eve in Evanston, Illinois. (Which is, of course, just 5 minutes from anywhere by rocket car!)

851575_497491816991199_391471856_nBut why party in Evanston? Why not join the throngs in Times Square, on Bourbon Street in New Orleans – or at Monty’s Steakhouse in Woodland Hills? Because the big little town north of Chicago is where you can enjoy  “Mr. Olsen’s New Year’s Rockin’ Neighborhood” at 27 Live — Evanston’s newest nightclub.27live_concerthallfinal

DSC_8401The fun begins at 8:00 PM with a one-hour comedy variety revue for the middle ages — hosted by screenwriter/comedian Dana Olsen, and featuring yours truly and my wife Victoria Zielinski of “The Vic & Paul Show”; our tall, blonde friend and fellow Practical Theatre founder, Brad Hall; the great Steve Rashid tinkling the ivories; Rockin’ Ronny Crawford hitting the rim shots on drums; and narrated by Stewart Figa, who will also grace the show with his powerful singing voice.

If you were among the standing-room-only crowd that caught “Mr. Olsen’s Neighborhood” at the Wilmette Theatre last June, you’ll have some idea of the fun to be had when Mr. Olsen and his neighbors get together to sing, dance and look back on the craziness of 2013 with laughter and comic camaraderie.

Rockme PhotoThen, at 10:00 PM, the kids (of all ages) will start jumpin’ when Riffmaster and The Rockme Foundation take the stage for two sets of classic rock & roll and original songs written by a bunch of guys who grew up listening to the best records ever made and played on the radio. Wit, harmony, the big backbeat — and passionate guitar playing that would make Chuck Berry proud of his children.

28127_10150190489000591_536200590_12508602_5992375_nAfter Riff and the Rockmes ring in the New Year, a DJ will keep the dance floor jumping until 2:00 AM.

It’s all happening at 27 Live, featuring a great stage, bar, whiskey lounge, and restaurant in a 14,000 square foot space that’s perfect for a New Year’s Eve crowd. 27 Live is located at 1012 Church Street, just steps away from both the CTA Purple line and Metra Davis stops.

Valet Parking is available.

sc00003a0eTickets are $25 in advance and $30 at door – with a $100 Dinner Package available (includes a 5 course dinner).

Tickets are now on sale at www.27live.com

Or get them at this link.

See you on New Year’s Eve!

Leave a comment

Filed under Art, Comedy, Improvisation, Music, Uncategorized

Mr. Olsen’s New Year’s Rockin’ Neighborhood!

NYE Banner 141-ogNYE Banner 2There will be no better place to be this New Year’s Eve than in Evanston, Illinois – that little college town just north of Chicago.

851575_497491816991199_391471856_nBut why party in Evanston? Why not Paris, or Rome, or the Greek island of Santorini? Why not join the throngs in Times Square – or at Monty’s Steakhouse in Woodland Hills?

Because Evanston in where you can be a part of “Mr. Olsen’s New Year’s Rockin’ Neighborhood” at 27 Live.

DSC_8401The fun begins at 8:00 PM with a one-hour comedy variety revue for the middle ages — hosted by screenwriter/comedian Dana Olsen, and featuring yours truly and my wife Victoria Zielinski of “The Vic & Paul Show”; our tall, blonde friend and fellow Practical Theatre founder, Brad Hall; the great Steve Rashid tinkling the ivories; Rockin’ Ronny Crawford hitting the rim shots on drums; and narrated by Stewart Figa, who will also grace the show with his powerful singing voice.

If you were among the standing-room-only crowd that caught “Mr. Olsen’s Neighborhood” at the Wilmette Theatre last June, you’ll have some idea of the fun to be had when Mr. Olsen and his neighbors get together to share some laughter and comic camaraderie.

Rockme PhotoThen, at 10:00 PM, the kids (of all ages) will start jumpin’ when Riffmaster and The Rockme Foundation take the stage for two sets of classic rock & roll and original songs written by a bunch of guys who grew up listening to the best records ever made and played on the radio. Wit, harmony, the big backbeat — and passionate guitar playing that would make Chuck Berry proud of his children.

28127_10150190489000591_536200590_12508602_5992375_nAfter Riff and the Rockmes ring in the New Year, a DJ will keep the dance floor jumping until 2:00 AM.

It’s all happening at Evanston’s newest nightclub and concert venue, 27 Live, featuring a great stage, bar, whiskey lounge, and restaurant in a 14,000 square foot space that’s perfect for a New Year’s Eve crowd. 27 Live is located at 1012 Church Street, just steps away from both the CTA Purple line and Metra Davis stops.

27live_concerthallfinalValet Parking is available.

Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at door – with a $100 Dinner Package available (includes a 5 course dinner).

Tickets are now on sale at www.27live.com

Or you can get them at this link.

See you in Evanston on New Year’s Eve!Mr Olsen Poster 2sc00003a0e

2 Comments

Filed under Art, Comedy, Improvisation, Music, Uncategorized

Mr. Olsen’s New Year’s Rockin’ Neighborhood!

NYE Banner 141-ogNYE Banner 2There will be no better place to be this New Year’s Eve than in Evanston, Illinois – that little college town just north of Chicago.

851575_497491816991199_391471856_nBut why party in Evanston? Why not Paris, or Rome, or the Greek island of Santorini? Why not join the throngs in Times Square – or at Monty’s Steakhouse in Woodland Hills?

Because Evanston in where you can be a part of “Mr. Olsen’s New Year’s Rockin’ Neighborhood” at 27 Live.

DSC_8401The fun begins at 8:00 PM with a one-hour comedy variety revue for the middle ages — hosted by screenwriter/comedian Dana Olsen, and featuring yours truly and my wife Victoria Zielinski of “The Vic & Paul Show”; our tall, blonde friend and fellow Practical Theatre founder, Brad Hall; the great Steve Rashid tinkling the ivories; Rockin’ Ronny Crawford hitting the rim shots on drums; and narrated by Stewart Figa, who will also grace the show with his powerful singing voice.

If you were among the standing-room-only crowd that caught “Mr. Olsen’s Neighborhood” at the Wilmette Theatre last June, you’ll have some idea of the fun to be had when Mr. Olsen and his neighbors get together to share some laughter and comic camaraderie.

Rockme PhotoThen, at 10:00 PM, the kids (of all ages) will start jumpin’ when Riffmaster and The Rockme Foundation take the stage for two sets of classic rock & roll and original songs written by a bunch of guys who grew up listening to the best records ever made and played on the radio. Wit, harmony, the big backbeat — and passionate guitar playing that would make Chuck Berry proud of his children.

28127_10150190489000591_536200590_12508602_5992375_nAfter Riff and the Rockmes ring in the New Year, a DJ will keep the dance floor jumping until 2:00 AM.

It’s all happening at Evanston’s newest nightclub and concert venue, 27 Live, featuring a great stage, bar, whiskey lounge, and restaurant in a 14,000 square foot space that’s perfect for a New Year’s Eve crowd. 27 Live is located at 1012 Church Street, just steps away from both the CTA Purple line and Metra Davis stops.

27live_concerthallfinalValet Parking is available.

Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at door – with a $100 Dinner Package available (includes a 5 course dinner).

Tickets are now on sale at www.27live.com

Or you can get them at this link.

See you in Evanston on New Year’s Eve!sc00003a0e

1 Comment

Filed under Art, Comedy, Improvisation, Music, Uncategorized

How I Spent My Summer Sabbatical: Part One…

Having decided to take a two-month sabbatical from the television business this summer, I left the production of the first season of “Push Girls” (Sundance Channel) and the eighth season of “Little People, Big World” (TLC) still in progress – and flew up to San Francisco in the first week of June to begin my unusual adventure.

My sabbatical began in the Bay Area because our middle-aged rock & roll band, Riffmaster & The Rockme Foundation, was playing a benefit in Portola Valley on June 8th to support Breast Cancer Action, an event organized by our drummer Rockin’ Ronny Crawford’s wife, JoAnn Loulan. My summer sojourn was off to a loud, rocking start for a very good cause.

My great friend, Rockme band mate (and freshman college roommate) Brad Hall accompanied me on the flight from LAX to SFO. Brad was also playing hooky from Hollywood.

After picking up Brad’s rental car, we traversed the surface streets of San Francisco, iPhone GPS in hand, from SFO to Brad’s sister’s lovely house overlooking The Presidio. I’d never spent more than a few days in San Francisco before, and I saw more of the city on that drive than I’d ever seen. I felt like Steve McQueen in “Bullit” (only going a lot slower) as we made our way up and down the groovy urban hill country toward The Presidio: that vast expanse of green space overlooking the Pacific Ocean commandeered by the U.S. military since the early 19th Century.

That first evening in San Francisco, Brad and I went to The Presidio Social Club to meet up with our gathering bandmates — Riffmaster Peter Van Wagner and Maurice Cleary (college roommates) and Terry Barron and Tom Larson (also college roommates. Sensing a pattern here?). I had the liver and onions. My meal was fabulous, as was the entire evening.

The next day, Brad and I made our way to rehearsal at Lennon Rehearsal Studios, located at 271 Dore Street in San Francisco, where our entire band was gathered.

Lead guitarist Riffmaster Peter Van Wagner…

Rhythm guitar player Maurice “Mr. Mo” Cleary…

Sax player Thomas “Wolf” Larson – who had traveled all the way from his home in Madrid, Spain…

Drummer Rockin’ Ronny Crawford…

Bass player Rush Pearson…

Keyboard wizard Steve “The Decider” Rashid…

And vocalist Casey “Casemo” Fox…

Our rehearsal at Lennon Studios went well. We actually made our way through most of the two sets we planned to play the next evening – and I managed not to tear my vocal cords to shreds prematurely.

The next evening, June 8th, we played the gig that had drawn us all to the Portola Valley: the benefit for Breast Cancer Action at the stunning, stately residence of Lori and Deke Hunter.

Lori and Deke have built an amazing house and grounds, featuring prolific flower and vegetable gardens. Seeing the impressive layout, I quickly spun a series of jokes about how Lori and Deke were actually poor subsistence farmers, barely managing to eke out a hardscrabble, meager living from their small, humble plot of earth. (Those jokes would serve me and Brad later during the live auction.)

At sound check — hours before the party got underway — Deke had growing concerns about the band. When I went into his house to print our set lists, Deke warned me that, “Volume could be a problem.” I replied that, “Volume is always a problem.” Needless to say, Deke was not reassured.

But before the night was out, it was Deke himself who led a packed dance floor, as he and his benefit guests rocked along with our second set. We came. We saw. We rocked. And we helped raise a lot of money for Breast Cancer Action.

“Bubba” George McClellan and the author cool our heels before the gig. (Looking as if we’d like to make you an offer you can’t refuse…)

Steve “The Decider” Rashid decides to look ultra-cool by the pool before the gig.

The next day, most of us gathered at a funky local eatery to celebrate a successful evening of riotous rocking and fundraising.

Then, it was time for Steve Rashid and I to fly to Chicago for the next stage in my sabbatical: “The Vic & Paul Show” at The Beverly Arts Center. The morning after we arrived in the Windy (and very hot and muggy) City, we went to the WGN radio studios in the Tribune Tower to promote “The Vic & Paul Show” in an appearance on Rick Kogan’s weekly radio program, “The Sunday Papers.”

To listen to our conversation with Rick, click here: vic and paul show

The day before we opened at The Beverly Arts Center, Victoria, Steve and I joined our good friends Dana Olsen, Shelly Goldstein and Stew Figa for a special one-night performance of “Mr. Olsen’s Neighborhood” at The Wilmette Theatre on June 14th. The show was made possible through the vision of another good friend and fellow NU alum, Nili Yelin Wronski, The Wilmette’s Director of PR and Marketing. Nili knows funny. (She’s a great entertainer herself!)

I had not shared a stage with Dana, Stewart or Shelly since our days at Northwestern – and it was as though the intervening three decades simply melted away in laughter and the joy of performance.

Shelly, Steve, Vic, Dana and the author. (Where was the great Stew Figa?)

We packed the house at The Wilmette Theatre – and the Chicago stage of my sabbatical tour was off to a great start.

Our choral salute to the legendary, corrupt, imprisoned Governors of Illinois. The great Stewart Figa stands second from right, next to the author.

The next night, Friday June 15th was the opening night of “The Vic & Paul Show” at The Beverly Arts Center on Chicago’s South Side in the neighborhood where Victoria was born and raised.

A front page article in The Beverly Review announced Vic’s return to her old stomping grounds — and the audience that gathered on opening night was swelled by her old classmates from Luther South High School, family members, and dozens of others curious to see the show that Victoria and her husband had come back home to perform.

Vic backstage at The Beverly Arts Center.

We’d done “The Vic & Paul Show” on Chicago’s North Side before – but this was our first time on the South Side. And by the time the curtain came down on our opening night show, we’d learned three basic things about Chicago audiences North and South.

— Boy-girl relationship jokes, comedy about marriage, getting drunk, and certain jokes below the waist are universal.

— Political jokes go over very differently on the North and South Sides. (Our biting, satirical song about the Republican Presidential candidates that knocked them dead at Mayne Stage in Rogers Park on the North Side? In Beverly — not such a laugh riot.)

— The South Side loves a good Catholic joke. In fact, nowhere on Earth (except, we would soon learn, Cleveland) would a reference to Saint Augustine get such a huge, knowing laugh.

Our two-weekend run at The Beverly Arts Center was off to a pretty good start – but it wasn’t over yet. Or was it?

Coming up next: Our run at The Beverly Arts Center continues – then it’s on to the wilds of northern Wisconsin and Cleveland’s Playhouse Square!

8 Comments

Filed under Art, Beauty, Comedy, Improvisation, Music

Riffmaster & The Rockmes in No Cal: Rock & Roll Rebels for a Good Cause.

Poster by Ron Crawford, of course!

3 Comments

Filed under Music