Two Vastly Different Name Drops from 25 Years Ago

Published by Rick on Tagged Uncategorized

It may have even been 26 years ago, but ultimately the year’s difference doesn’t change the story. It was in February, 1990 (or 89?) that I got the chance to be the opener, potentially on a national tour, for a man who was my friend at the time, then within a few years we fell out, to the point that he even took to bad rapping me on stage. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here.

The man having his 15 minutes at this time was Andrew Dice Clay, and depending on who you talked to, he was either the best thing in comedy at the time, or the worst thing to EVER happen to comedy. It was character-driven comedy meant to shock and offend, with the moderately subtle hints of “Hey, I’m not really like that.” It was true, from my time spent with him, that despite the politically incorrect front he put up, he had the capacity to be a nice guy. Unfortunately, he got moderately famous, and started to believe the hype. It was at this time in his career that I spent the better part of 24 hours with him.

The venue was the Phoenix Civic Auditorium, a circular venue with a revolving stage. Dice had asked me to accompany him to this 3000-seat venue, as we had done some studio work together, and had found that while it was tedious, we got to be friends in the process. There was the prospect of future gigs together, but this was also a proving ground, and the only time I think I proved his choice right was when I was on stage. The rest of the time was constantly feeling as though I had to yield to some superior power. I have to admit I screwed up a couple of times, and it probably cost me in the long run.

Someone on our flight from LA Airport recognized him and would not leave him alone, and I made the foolish mistake of indicating where we were staying in Phoenix, but covering, maybe too late, by saying it was just me that was staying there, and Dice and his wife would be somewhere uncertain. That was mistake Number One! Mistake Number Two was made right before I was to face the potential lynch mob that was his audience. As I’m waiting for my intro, Dice walks by me and asks, “Are you psyched?” Really a wrong time to be talking to me at all, but my response didn’t help. I said, “Of course I am, but then I’ve been here before, I’ve opened for Robin Williams.” What I’m sure he wanted to hear was, “Oh yes, Andrew, and you’re the Most Wonderful Person on the Planet for giving me this opportunity to be part of this great experience that is your presence.” Because I didn’t say that or something related, it’s no surprise that, coupled with my airplane faux pas, this would be my only gig with him.

Still, I handled the hostile crowd, 3000 strong and probably 2900 of it White Male, with a good bit of aplomb. As I came out on stage to a cascade of boos and “fuck you, we want Dice” greetings, I calmly told them “I know I’m not what you want, but if you bear with me, we’ll have some fun until Mr. Clay comes on.” Somehow it worked, and my 25 minutes worked surprisingly well. Well enough that as I left the stage and walked down a hallway that bisected the crowd, several of them high-five’d me.

Dice, when all is said and done, was a marvel to watch, as he was on stage for a good 2-3 minutes before saying anything, milking the crowd’s enthusiasm to the point that when he uttered his first sentence, “So I’m fuckin’ this chick, balls deep…” the crowd erupted again. Much as it may not have been what I or any of my comedy aficionado friends would have deemed greatness, you couldn’t begrudge his ability as a performer.

Move the clock up six months, and I’m back in Phoenix, headlining at one of their prominent comedy clubs, Finney-Bones. On the Sunday night, the owner of the club got a call from the booker of the Civic asking who was headlining, and did he work clean. Country superstar Barbara Mandrell was playing the venue for three days, but her opener had to cancel on the Sunday. The owner of Finney-Bones assured the man that I did work clean, which was the case then, though not for much longer after that.

So I was hustled over to Phoenix Civic, having enough time to do my 20 minutes, make an extra $250, and be back at Finney-Bones in time to close their show. I had no time to sound check or even get situated, plus the stage was encumbered by about 25 instruments, since that was one of Ms. Mandrell’s fortés, her multi-instrumental virtuosity. One of her other talents was being a total diva bitch, which I discovered in my few seconds of NOT meeting her. She was behind a curtain and out-and-out refused to even say hello! Well, OK, I’ll do my time and get out of there. I didn’t see one second of her show.

She really should have been more civil, given that a few years before, she was among the most hated people in Nashville after being in a serious auto accident where the other driver was killed. Instead of counting her blessings for being alive and functional, she tried to institute a $10 million lawsuit against the deceased, who was 19 at the time, for lost earnings and pain and suffering. This didn’t exactly endear her to her Nashville constituents. Maybe she was still feeling the backlash 4-5 years later, when I had the pleasure of her non-company.

Really it was easier opening for Dice, because Mandrell was all about Middle America and family values. Where it really hit was during my set, which I was editing as I went along, and I got to talking about the Renaissance of the 1970’s. As I mentioned all the groups getting back together with whatever original guys are still alive and sane, I talked about who was having career revivals. As I said, “Donny Osmond is back on the charts,” and it got applause, I had to let that statement stand on its own, avoiding the cheap shot that would have normally followed. Had I been doing that line for Dice’s crowd, the attitude would have been “Bring it on!”

It’s a shame that particular era is pretty much gone, for I got many a gig opening for rock acts, some of whom I truly admired. Now, except in a few rare instances, music acts don’t have comedians opening anymore, instead opting for some new record label signee who’s just grateful for the chance, and who in some cases, actually pays the headliner for the privilege.

Meanwhile, Dice and I had a major falling out in the mid-90’s over a song parody I did to the tune of “American Pie.” Mine was subtitled, “The Day The Humor Died,” and names were mentioned, including his. I was performing it at the Comedy Store, not knowing he was doing a guest spot right after me. When he got on, he ripped me a new one, and continued to do so for several months after, though I was surprised that, when I watched him deliver a fusillade against me, with all he could have said, he settled for calling me an ugly retard. He considered me ungrateful for the career break he gave me, while I knew in my own mind that, had he not been standoffish to me over the previous year or so, I might have felt more guilty about putting his name in my diatribe, and possibly avoided it altogether. Funny though, that a later album of his was called “The Day The Laughter Died!” If I was Barbara Mandrell, I might have sued!



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