Archive for September, 2009


Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

Tomorrow my friend Marc turns the big 6-0. Not only does he not seem it, but that leaves only Alan among core friends still clinging to his 50’s. And me.

Walt has been in my life’s equation since first grade. Unlike Stuart, who lived two doors away, I was gifted with Marc’s friendship on (as he would note), a 1 in 3 shot. (There was a trio of first grade classrooms at Rowland Elementary in the fall of ’55; we wound up together).

The rest is history.

Our friendship was founded on boyhood’s basic instincts and glued together by coincidence and incidents of memorable moments, (some even important).

While I was growing up on the mean streets of South Euclid Walt’s family was movin’ on up to Beachwood. We may have had intermittent contact along the way, but I well remember when we reunited for a lifetime. It was Math 117, the second in a three-quarter required sequence. I’d transferred in from Michigan State; Walt was already in Columbus, living in the SAM House.

We reconnected. So much so that we coordinated our schedules to take 118 together that spring. So much so that when I changed my major and was compelled to take a DIFFERENT three quarter math sequence, Walt took fifteen hours of the higher level regimen as electives, so we could sit together. And we did so sophomore year for, yes: Maths 121, 122, and 123.

It should be noted that Marc was also present the night I met the mother of my children. He too had been fixed up—with Andy Wolf, a junior cheerleader from Miami (of Ohio). We caught “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” dined at Emil’s way out at E. Main and Hamilton, then called it a night. I slept over in the Sammy dorm that night; we both said we’d never see our dates again. Only one of us was right.

It was during those glory days that Sol’s Boys was the pre-eminent team on Cleveland’s sandlots. As catcher, I saw the field as no one else could.
We were a talented group—well-schooled in fundamentals. The plays got made. Walt at short, however, was special. Everything seemed effortless. From my angle he never broke a sweat.

Life moved along, people were getting married, having kids, etc. I can’t remember why, but somehow we wound up in Vegas….must have been in the 80’s. Having just arrived, we’d dumped our bags, and were en route to a quick bite before hitting the tables.

“Wait,” he cautioned me, as we angled through the casino. Stopping at an empty blackjack table he put a twenty dollar bill on the green felt. Moments later the dealer busted.

Walt swooped up the doubled money.
“Let’s go,” he urged. “I didn’t feel like paying for lunch.”

He never broke stride. The entire weekend. Even the next day when Wieder showed up unannounced at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
Marc chuckled, but he never switched gears. Like he was turning another double play.

And life moved forward. Our kids knew each other. His mom sold us a house. And during my abyss—when I was less-than-lovable—the birthday cards kept coming and his warm hellos never chilled.

Not that all memories with Marc bring smiles. One fall Saturday in 1974, we suffered by the TV together. The Bucks were ahead against Michigan State when Levi Jackson stunned the East Lansing crowd going 88 yards with 3 ½ minutes left. Then, down 16-13, in the final minutes we drove the field. A goal line pileup would not dislodge and the refs did nothing about it. Fourteen seconds left. We lined up; they didn’t. And in broad daylight they denied us one last play from scrimmage—and the gun sounded! Woody raised hell and indeed the final score wasn’t official until some 45 minutes after time expired. We shot hoops in his backyard after that. Jeff was there. No one was talking much. Our season had died inside the Spartan 1.

And life went on. The kids grew up. Half our marriages went south. And while my athletic career came to an end, Marc’s continued….and does even to this day. Still, whenever our paths would cross Walt would urge me to join the Wednesday breakfast group. I don’t know why, (perhaps out of insecurity), but for a long time I abstained. Those were wasted moments. My loss. For a few years now they have highlighted my schedule. 8:30, Corky’s, big booth in the back….the table with the big wooden RESERVED sign on it.…hopefully Chad as the server. Les, Art, Bob (H), and………..Walt.

So it’s six decades for my friend. As he would say, “a good run.” We haven’t shared Vegas together recently, but we did one better. A year ago, with Mary, we watched Alan and Joanie get married on a South Carolina beach. A magic moment and…oh, yeah…the three of us found the room in the beach house with the TV. You see, Ohio State was playing that night.

So, happy birthday to my friend Marc: a man who on a daily basis proves Leo Durocher wrong. And whose milestone birthday falls, coincidentally…on a Wednesday.

That, by the way, was a 1 in 7 shot.


Sunday, September 27th, 2009

      “Oh you can go to the East
     Go to the West
     Someday you’ll come
     Weary at heart
     Back where you started from

     You’ll find your happiness lies
     Right under your eyes,
     Back in your own backyard.”

                                                   Medeleine Peyroux

We were on our way in from LaGuardia. Catching up.

“Have you heard from Stacy?”

I had, and noted that the Bohrers were extending their honeymoon until Tuesday.

“Dad, “asked Michael, “Do you have any urge to go to Hawaii?”
“We loved it there,” Meredith added.
“Not a chance.”

And then we had a variation of a theme conversation that’s been shared with each of my kids. This cowboy is just not a traveler. No need; no desire. No way. No how.

Why would I? But for the kids, everything I truly need is within the confines of the Buckeye State.

Perhaps I’ve overstated the case. I love Vegas; I like Florida. But both can be enjoyed only in small doses. Three days on the strip. A weekend in the sun. But that’s it. Why waste time away when real life awaits?

I wish I had a dollar for every JDate would-be match I’ve clicked right past because her profile said “Love to travel.” Travel to Cleveland, please.

Remember the David Spade movie, “DIckie Roberts-Former Child Star”? Where did HE ultimately find his greatest peace….in his own backyard!

A program guy calls it “marveling in the ordinary.” What a wonderful place to be.

Maybe you need to have a little mileage on you to get it, but so be it. I would rather soak up the standard fare of day-to-day with my family and friends than enjoy the tropic sun with them.

Seinfeld had a great run with a “show about nothing.” But it wasn’t. That’s how I feel about my life these days. It’s consistent; it’s predictable. It is, however, HARDLY NOTHING. I am present in a life that, (but for, perhaps…and only perhaps….a companion), is full.

Yesterday was a perfect example. Saturday in Great Neck included breakfast at Astoria’s Neptune Diner, stopping for a manicure, CVS, bantering with an optician, the grocery store, slouching/watching TV (Michael taped “Curb” for me), dinner at an Italian restaurant, and then more TV…together. Just being. And I savored the moments.

It’s the same on the home turf.

Marveling in the ordinary…where the simple things are not as “ordinary” as they are exceptional.

There is nothing routine about my routine. And I love it.

I wake and say my prayers. Oatmeal at the same place at the same time every day. Call the kids. Go to meetings. Work. Wednesday breakfast with OSU boys. Friday home group. More work. A play here, some organizational work there. Shabbos dinner with Hal, Margie, et. al. Aunt Helen On Demand.

So excuse me if I never send you a postcard from Maui. And don’t laugh when I pass on hot Broadway tickets or dinner at Nobu. Or Cub seats.

There truly is no place like home, and although sometimes that means New York or Chicago, “home” remains where my heart is.


Thursday, September 24th, 2009

“We knew no time for sadness, that’s a road we each had crossed
We were living a time meant for us, and even when it would rain
we would laugh it off…”

                                                                                           D. Loggins

Mom died the first week in April, just before Passover. Indeed, the formal “shivah” was aborted by the First Seder. So be it. The lady’s lifelong insecurity convinced her she wasn’t ready for prime time. This was just more of the same.

Fast forward to this past week and the Jewish New Year. Moments after dropping Aunt Helen off after dinner I was struck by a discomforting reality….it hadn’t hit me until that very moment…. This was our first Rosh HaShana without our mother, but no one, including me, seemed to notice. It never came up.

I called my brother immediately. He did add some focus, citing her last years of illness and noting  that while she had been there our mother was not truly  “present.”

Still, I was saddened.

The irony of it is that I can quote lines, stories and wisdom from my Dad.
His life-lessons still resonate with me. And although he was vibrant, dynamic and clearly a Damon Runyon character, he had humility. He would care not if his absence had been overlooked at a holiday.

My Mom? If she were still alive, the failure to mention her name would have killed her!

So I’ve been thinking about her more the past week.

She died in April. What was her spiritual legacy…for me?

It had to be more than her steadfast refusal to bad-mouth my father in the divorce storms. Surely that taught me a lesson. But was there more?

It had to be more than unconditional love. That was a given.

And then I remembered an event that goes back to 1964. The immediate post-divorce days were tough on me. My dad was out-of-town, money was short, and, of course, I was hell-bent on defending his honor…even when it wasn’t challenged. (While my mother said little, her whole fam damily would endlessly criticize him in my presence. It was a rough place to be for a fifteen-year old. For example, when my Aunt Ruth lost her husband, she exclaimed “Better it should have been Al Bogart”). Hard to hear that!

One day a kid from the Hebrew School carpool teased me:

“At least my parents live together.”

(Remember, this was in the days before divorce was fashionable).

Sharing these bruises with my mother was a natural. She eased the pain with her laughter. In retrospect, she could have learned from her own words.

My mother went from the country’s Great Depression to a rotten marriage, to HER Great Depression. She was partially hearing disabled, partially self-supporting, and only partially happy. But she never lost her sense of humor. Indeed, even The Thief couldn’t take that!

I’m opening a broad comedy next week at Fine Arts Association. My character, at varying times, self-diagnoses a heart attack, a stroke, and brain cancer. It’s a great role.

Last night they asked me to turn in a short bio for the program. And that’s when it all came together.

I wrote:

“…Bruce dedicates this show to his late mother who, although she raised hypochondria to an art form, taught him, most importantly, how to laugh…”


Saturday, September 19th, 2009

Two distinctly separate occurrences have been caught my attention recently. Family behaviors each, and I’ve been struggling to identify the nexus—until now.

Harriet called from Columbus to review the wedding and shared: Sitting with my Aunt Etty and Uncle Bob, she had posed an after-dinner question never before uttered:

“Why’d Elaine and Al divorce?” she asked Etty.
“You don’t know?” was the amazed response.
“No,” said Harriet. “I never asked.”

Even I found that amazing. She meets a middle-aged guy with no ascertainable assets (or hair), falls in love, spends 15 years with him….and the subject never came up! A quarter century post mortem—40 years in total—-and now she wonders?

”You NEVER asked?” I pushed her.
Harriet laughed. “Bruce, I never thought to. I liked your father. It felt right.
It didn’t matter.”
“Did you know he didn’t have money?”
“I didn’t need to know. He asked me what we needed to get married. I said a new bed. So a week later he bought one.”
The story warmed me. “It was that simple?” I inquired. (Just to confirm).

And I guess it was:

“My mother liked him. I liked him. I trusted my gut.”
She wasn’t done.
“And besides,” she reiterated, “It didn’t matter.”

What a wonderful way to go through life. Seeing what needs to be seen, leaving the rest, and trusting one’s gut.

Perhaps that is why, to a person, I know no one that finds her less than remarkable. I meet no one touched by her that is not better for it.

Which makes the balance of this entry ever more disturbing.

Names aren’t important, but another recap of the wedding yielded a quite disparate spirit. This came face-to-face, in Cleveland.

“Please take me to the post office,” she directed.
We approached the drive-through and….
“There’s an envelope to your ex-wife,” she exclaimed, moments after the mail disappeared in the shoot. “Did you see it?”
“No. Don’t worry, I mailed it with the others.”
“Do you want to know what’s in it?”
“Not really.”
“You truly don’t want to know?” she pushed back again.
“Not really. But if you want to tell me, I will listen.”
“Really, Bruce, sometimes I don’t know what to do with you! Why would you not be curious? Sometimes you worry me!”

(By now we were a half mile out off federal property. The silence was deafening…until she broke it).

“Well, I must tell you.”
“I wrote her to tell her what a beautiful wedding it was! Wasn’t that nice of me?”
“It sure was.” *(Shoot me now!)
“Do you want to know why I wrote her?” she continued.
I volleyed: “Because it was a beautiful wedding?”
“Of course not. Please. It is because she has not been nice to me. I want her to feel guilty.”
I sat there in semi-disbelief—and saddened that someone could be so soul-sick.
The speaker continued: “Surely she will receive my note and feel guilty. Let her stew on it.”

She giggled like the teenager she must never have been. Me, I was just stunned that someone with so much intellect could have so little heart.
What a terrible way to travel life’s road—carrying the weight of resentments.

When I picture Harriet I see a smile. And I smile. She is upbeat, in the present, and positive. Someone you’d love to drive to the post office.

This, however, is a tale of two cities.


Thursday, September 17th, 2009

The “Summer Of George” is over. It ended in the glow of Monday’s morning as I waved goodbye to the newlyweds.

And I’m flat.

70 degrees in Cleveland today. No snow. No gray. Still, closing my eyes I sensed nothing but the stale numb of mid-February.

Perhaps it’s a measure of the great summer had that my spirit is so…(what’s that word again?) ….flat.

But what a summer it was!

Struggled through “Threepenny Opera.” Got to read a few books; re-read one. Ignored my son’s rolling eyes by driving to New Jersey for breakfast. Added 300 songs to the ipod. Took a rare non-family vacation. Survived a day on a pontoon. Reunited with the old radio partners. Was cast for a signature role at Fine Arts Association. And walked the little one down the aisle.

Not a bad run.

Summer love? Had neither a girlfriend nor time for one. (Not that the cupboard was anything other than bare).

And now we are deep into rehearsal. But for the High Holidays, I’m on stage every night ‘til our October opening. So be it.

I’m really not complaining—just acknowledging. I know too well that these periods without drama have their own quality and benefit. They keep me balanced.

So I’m regrouping. Hitting meetings, touching the bases, and, as best as I can, I keep paddling the boat.

(Better here than on a lake in Wisconsin).


Monday, September 14th, 2009

It was the winter of ’83.

A gin game broke out AFTER a Sunday night wedding. Brokering a deal with the wife, the game was permitted at our house so long as I’d be responsible for newborn Stacy. No problem: Neither a 6 AM bottle of Similac nor rhythmic crying would hold us back. The game was on! I remember it like it was yesterday. Jacobson, Adelstein, Rosenthal, Holsman…who ever was sitting out held the crying baby.


She still requires holding from time to time, (but not by me).

Enter Jason, native of Chicago, a polite young man, but most importantly, truly a Gutte neshumah . A good soul.

They met in the Windy City, fell in love there, and apparently, will live their lives there. Together.

G/d blessed their union yesterday—the merger of a beautiful bride and a handsome groom. And we all cried tears of joy.

They’ll be honeymooning in Hawaii, then returning to their home, just a nine iron shot from Wrigley Field.

Someone told me once that children need but two things: unconditional love and wings.

Our baby has both.

“Just let your love surround her
Paint a rainbow all around her
Don’t let her see a cloudy sky…”


          Gerry Goffin/Carole King


Friday, September 11th, 2009

There’s been much talk of Lou Gehrig this week; the baseball legend is about to have another of his records broken. Fourteen years ago Cal Ripken, Jr. surpassed him, playing in 2,131 consecutive games. It was an achievement duly revered in baseball’s annals. It pales, however, compared to a record being extended once again this weekend.

Born in New York in the midst of the Great Depression, Harriet Grail thrives today in Columbus, Ohio. And on Sunday she will attend her sixth consecutive Bogart wedding in a run dating back to August, 1970. Her career as a family attendee strings longer than the combined careers of Gehrig and Ripken, PLUS THREE.

What a remarkable lady.

They met at Columbus’s Jewish Center in ’69. She was eight years the junior and a divorcee with three adolescents; he was overweight, bald, and penniless. His kids were a bit older and he too was rebuilding. And they fit!

My Dad swore he’d never marry her. He was getting his life back on track and looking forward to having both sons in Columbus together. And besides, he’d point out, the lady had “three strikes against her.” (This was his indirect reference to Harriet’s kids, two of them female. Clearly intimidated by the thought of living with teens, his head was telling him Nischt Nischt).

But his heart had the final say and on August 9, 1970 they wed.

To be sure, Harriet had won our hearts from Day One. We’d met her the year prior at a pre-arranged Meet ‘n Greet. Marilyn Fenton (then Simon) made Chanukah latkes and we all got together at Chez Bogart, 20 East 14 Street, in the apartment behind the old SBX store. My Dad had us on our best behavior. Stuart and Randy were there. Low key.

And the rest, over four decades, has become history.

Al Bogart, once content to live a life of sales and sons simply melted once he met this lady. And before you knew it, Hal and I were part of what they now call “extended family.”

We used to tease our father about his ability to sustain a healthy marriage. Indeed, our mom had gone south in just under fifteen years.
“Pop,” I’d say ad nauseum…”You can never make 15 years with anyone.”

He died on August 9, 1985. You do the math.

Our dad was gone, but the mutual love between Harriet and the Cleveland contingent never faded. Nor did our bond with her wing (Jeffrey, Denise and Leslie).

It’s nearly a quarter century, but family remains family.

When Michael went through OSU he knew where his grandmother was. (And so did his laundry).

When Jamie wed in Montego Bay, she knew her grandmother’d get

And now, as Stacy ties the knot in the Best Location in The Nation, Harriet will be there.

Life brings bitter and sweet; we have shared it together. In the interim Harriet met another beautiful man, Fred Grail, and enjoyed another long term marriage. We lost him last year, but, true to form, she remains in love and contact with his mishpachah.

So bother me not with the much-hyped accomplishments of the sports stars. And don’t replay me the YouTube of Ripken’s self-congratulatory perimeter run in Camden Yard. That was September 5, 1995. And Harriet was just getting started.

She’ll be walking down the aisle this Sunday…at my baby’s wedding.

That, there,…that….is what I’d call a victory lap!


Sunday, September 6th, 2009

It’s T minus 7. The little one’s wedding is but a week away.

There is nothing more magical than watching one of your kids…an adult…exchanging, in the language of our ancestors, vows.

This will be our third time through. I can’t imagine how “Zayde” (actually my maternal great-grandfather) did it. Grandma Bogart was one of 17. 17! (Two touchdowns and a field goal). I wonder if HER mother was even there–she was probably in labor at the time!

Michael was married in New York. It was black tie, exquisite, and (like my wedding), the betrothal of two first-borns. ‘Twas also the first peaceful moment spent with my ex-wife since the Clinton era.

I don’t recall escorting him down the aisle, but my mind’s eye has us all under the canopy. Somehow we just got there.

Michael was tall, handsome and confident. Studying him, my mind held a panorama of thoughts…past, present, and future—interrupted only by periodic wipes of the eye.

They were tears of pride and joy. And yes, I kept thinking of time “flown.” One scene stood out against the canvas of the past:

Within 24 hours of grabbing OSU’s diploma, our son abandoned Ohio to conquer the world. We’d driven across the country; he’d been deposited on “The Island” with Aunt Rose and Uncle Fred Orenstein. A job in the Big Apple awaited.

Just one year and three months to the day later it was 9/11. He called that night to say he was OK. I thought about it as the rabbi spoke.

“Maybe you should come home,” I’d offered. By then the First Born had entered New York Law School. “Transfer here. It’s safer.”

“No, Dad.”
”Why not? You can always move back to New York?”
He didn’t seem to get it. He wasn’t budging. Wasn’t I his father?
(Maybe I just didn’t get it).
“Dad, people here aren’t running away. We’re not afraid. You don’t run away from things!”
My son was steadfast; he had learned a life lesson I was only beginning to appreciate.

Oh, how he’d grown.

And so it was that on October 28, 2006, I relived the phone call, eyed my boy… so tall, so grown….and marveled at what had become. A man.

Jamie’s wedding was outdoors. Miles away. Jamaica.

The backdrop was the Caribbean and as this beautiful blond, (bred of two Jewish parents), descended the concrete steps of a beach-side patio…I worried. Would she trip? The dress seemed so long!

Her hair was straight back; her blues eyes shone. She was beautiful. She was natural. She was elegant.

More tears; more pride.

It was her first little league game. Slow-pitch softball, and the coaches threw to the batters.

I was on the mound.

Jamie was your classic over-achiever, always seeming to put too much pressure on herself. Her white T-shirted uniform mirrored her hair.

I was remembering that first at bat…her intense concentration. And recalling how carefully I’d tried to aim the pitch to match the trajectory of her bat.

She hit a slow dribbler to the right side of the infield. Legging it out to first base was easy; no one bothered to field the ball.

A lifetime away from Hilltop’s diamond, she too had grown up. She too stood under the chupah moments from matrimony.

So one more to go! Seven days til the baby. Is that a lump festering in my throat? Stacy grown? Stacy?

For her first birthday Uncle Benny, Art and I drove out to Chardon and got her a dog, Rocky (of blessed memory). (Needed Arthur’s OK; even stopped at his clinic on the way home to wash it).

We had a travel cage for the sheltie, perhaps three feet by eighteen inches.  Stacy loved the dog and slept in the cage with it. How I wish she still fit.

But that was 26 years ago and we’re all older. And she, too, has grown up.

But that doesn’t mean she’s not our baby. And that doesn’t mean that exactly seven days from now I won’t be dabbing my eyes…and picturing a little girl that looks like Punky Brewster napping in a small cage with an even smaller dog.

Break  that glass!


Friday, September 4th, 2009

My father was your prototype salesperson: personable, pleasant looking, (although no rock star), and above all, able to freely give someone undivided access. He could look you in the eye and have you believing that no one had ever commanded his attention like you were at that very moment.

And he had a great vocabulary, solid grammar, and an amazing ability to read between the lines. Clearly, long before Ronald Reagan, my Dad was The Great Communicator.

Which makes the following fact even more amazing: Al Bogart hated the telephone. Hated it. The man held a life-long resentment dating back to the days of rotary dial.

Closing my eyes I can still picture South Euclid suppers in the ‘50s. The phone would ring and my Mom would answer it.

“Al, it’s for you.”
“THEY DON’T LET YOU LIVE!” he’d exclaim. (Customers, creditors…it didn’t matter. The refrain was always the same. Like Pavlov’s dog).
Before dinner, after, or as we played catch in the backyard:

“Al, it’s for you.”

(Which is not to say that he didn’t sometimes use the phone to his advantage). Periodically I’d want to do something that any parent would have frowned upon. Like hitchhike, for example, or drive 9 hours with Bob and Art to Boyne Mountain Ski Resort, in specific.

Then, then….he would flip:

“Why don’t you call Bobby Snyder’s father and see if he thinks it’s a good idea?” I can hear him like it was yesterday.

Still, what, (to use HIS phrase) “truly frosted his ass,” was when we’d take the phone off the hook. Those were the days before call-waiting; those were the days of busy signals. Worse yet, those were the times when one never even knew if someone else was trying to reach them. Busy was just busy.

And so it was that one Sunday afternoon during the OSU days my father tried to reach me. He was living in suburban Columbus, ten miles from campus; I stayed with my brother and Dick Baskin on West Maynard.

The future mother of my children visited and privacy was in order. As such, the phone came off the hook. Later that day we left to grab a bite, and yes, unbeknownst to us, he’d been calling. And calling. And calling.

Remember, there were no cell phones. There was no texting. There was then, only fuming.

How mad was he? How frustrated? My loving dad hopped in his station wagon and drove across town—bolting into the apartment. We had left, but  Hal was there to greet him. Moreover, the quarter hour on the freeway hadn’t cooled him down. To this day my brother recalls Dad being “out of control,” going directly to the phone cord and ripping it right out of the wall! Right out. Permanently off the hook, you might say.

Returning to Maynard a bit later all I could do was laugh. And I wasn’t the only one. Harriet laughed. My brother laughed. Baskin laughed.

My father never did.

“Why do you do these things you know will antagonize me?” he asked.
And then he hugged me, told me he’d pay for reinstallation, and within days it was all forgotten.

Within days, but not within decades.

Today’s News Herald has an article about some guy facing first-degree misdemeanor charges; he’s accused of ripping “…a phone cord out of a wall….”

I read the article twice, thought of my father and called my brother.

And I laughed.


Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009

I started going to recovery meetings in ’97. Heard a lot of words, but I wasn’t sure they made sense. The beginnings were a haze as I hadn’t yet learned that my biggest problem was me.

The first thing I DO remember hearing…that clicked…was when I was told that the people in the rooms were “egomaniacs with inferiority complexes.”

That I could identify with; that made sense. That was me.

My journey is a process of ego-deflation, trying to get, (as they say) “right-sized.” Balance.

Hold the thought.

Last May I did a featured role in “Threepenny Opera.” While I enjoyed the run and learned, there was just not that comfort level. Still, it did rekindle my acting bug and through summer I eagerly eyed tryout notices.

Three caught my attention and each was slated for August. My first choice was doing Ira in Neil Simon’s “Laughter On The 23rd Floor.” Unfortunately, the scheduling was bad, with readings sandwiched between first “The Sound Of Music” and later “The Man Who Came To Dinner.”

My game plan was just NOT to get shut out. I needed to do a show. As such, I did read for Uncle Max. Singing “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” I strutted before the director and musical director, convinced I’d nailed it. Evidently not. Never even got a call back.

A week later I’d decided to pass on “Laughter.” Booked to fly that Friday to Jason’s bachelor party—timing didn’t work. Life, I sensed, would go on.

Things, though, tend to happen.

Erev Pontooning I received a mass Facebook reminder about the “Laughter” tryout. It required not only the reading, but also doing a one minute monologue. Clearly there was no time to prepare!

I texted the director: “Can be there tonight. Can you live without a monologue?”
“Just show up. And callbacks will be Saturday, if necessary,” he responded.
Both good news and bad news. (On Saturday I was to be sitting on a ship avoiding mosquitoes).
Taking a stab I texted back: “Out of town Sat—but I can wash your car!”
He answered with a smooth call: “Just show up.”

My reading that night was all it could have been. As they say on TV, “I killed.”

Friday I left town. Saturday were callbacks. And from Sunday on, and on, and on, I waited for my phone to ring, or my Email to twirp.


Tuesday I was mulling the final show; the reading was that night. Although it was a comedy, my heart wasn’t in it. I’d left it all on the table for “Laughter.” I know me; I couldn’t have been better—for me. Maybe I was just funnier when I was fatter.

One of many lessons in recovery is that a problem shared is a problem cut in half. So I called Paul, my actor’s equity friend, and shared.

What to do? He would know. And he did.

“Just call the director. Tell him the truth. Tell him you don’t want to go elsewhere, but you need to plan.”
“Just call him. He likes you. Grow up.”
So, chickenshit me, I texted instead. (It’s progress, they say, not perfection).
His response was immediate, if illusory:


So I stayed home that night and waited. In between waits I sought interpretation of the text from anyone I could. To a person, they felt it “sounded good.”
“Are you sure?”
Wednesday begot Thursday became the weekend. But my phone didn’t ring….until IT DID!

I got the part! This cowboy is cast in a signature role, portraying one of Sid Caesar’s scribes from TV’s early days. The whole show takes place in the writers’ room. Picture The Alan Brady Show—I’m Buddy Serrell.

Only a new problem: am I good enough?

We had the read-through the other night. Sitting there, the proverbial “little fish in a big pond”…surrounded by a company of funny, very funny people—-each called to portray another comedy writer, I wondered….

Am I good enough?

Which brings me back to my original thought…that I am an egomaniac with an inferiority complex. Just trying to get right-sized.

I go to meetings; I work at myself…because I’ve been constantly reminded that “The old Bruce lives within the new Bruce.”

So be it.

My sponsor told me not to be intimidated. Just do your best, he urged. Then, he concluded, if it doesn’t work out they’ll say you were miscast—they’ll blame the director.

We laughed, but I know what I have to do: get off book, hit my marks, and….keep working my program. And I will.

Not a bad gig.