I was sitting at home in Edmond’s, Washington, when the phone started ringing. At first I thought the ringing was in my ear; who would be calling me at 11:00 in the morning? Everybody I knew would have just gotten to bed after a night of comedy and debauchery. Thinking it might be a bill collector working the day shift, I changed my voice and growled, “wuddayawant?”
Ted Files of the Scott Dean agency in Reno, Nevada answered, “Is that you Jay? -You sound funny.”
“Sorry Ted,” I answered, ”I just swallowed some hope and it went down the wrong pipe.”
He ignored my remark, “I have some great news for you!” (that is agent speak for a low paying or free gig) “There’s a showcase, by invitation only, at ‘The Park’ Tahoe Casino.” Ted readied his pitch, “If you are open next week this is a big chance to be seen by the people who count!” (FYI: The Park Tahoe later became ‘Caesars’ Tahoe.)
While I was packing, I told him I could get another comic to cover my shows. (this is comic talk for I am not booked)
Leaving a week early so I wouldn’t miss my flight, I drove to SeaTac airport and parked my car. When I arrived in Reno I called Ted to let him know I was in town. He told me he would meet me in the showroom at 7:30 and informed me that I had an 8:00pm slot. I was there by 4:00 waiting outside the door. Around about 6:30, the Maitre’d wearing a beautiful tuxedo and a big smile, introduced himself to me as Vince DeMouer.
Side Note: Before the end of that night, Mr. Vince DeMouer and me were like family.
- It was almost Almost 8:00pm and Ted wasn’t there! A moment later, the stage director approached and asked me if my Representative was present. I looked around; still no sign of Ted. “Well we are running a little late so we’ve moved you to nine o’clock.” The stage director walked away and I took a deep breath.
One by one, the other acts performed – tap dancers, singers, munitions exploding – you name it! By the end of the night, I was given a time of 4:00am; there were few people left in the audience and Ted had still not arrived. I peaked through the curtain and saw a sparse group of people who looked like they might be homeless and some guys way in the back at a dark table. Vince, hardly knowing me, called his wife and rounded up about 15 people to sit down front. God bless him! I was introduced and did my five hours…
- OKAY, half an hour. I walked off stage and a guy walked up to me and said in a voice like The God Father, “the boss wants to see you.” All I could think of was, did I say something wrong? Following him across the almost-empty showroom seemed like walking the green mile. We approached the table in the back of the room and he said to a well-dressed man, “Here, this is the kid.” The gentleman turned around. I just about pee’d all over myself. “Tough spot,” he said, “but, you pulled it off, kid.”
I tried to act as cool as possible but I could barely masque my excitement. “Thank you Mr Frank Sinatra!” In awe, I turned around and walked into a post. I had the presence of mind to act like it was a joke, and I staggered off with blood running down my shirt. As I was leaving, Vince saw me and asked, “what happened to YOU?”
I looked at Vince and deadpan I said, “Frank likes physical comedy and I will do anything for a laugh.”
I drove back to the Reno Airport and caught a 8:45am flight home. Looking back, I can’t help but think, “I did it my way.”