Volume 3 Book 1 Part 3 of
Living in the Bonus Round

Roger Bart (from "The Producers"
poses with Jim as "Roger DeBris"

[ Book 2-10 ] -- [ Pt 1 ] [ Pt 2 ] [ Pt 3 ] [ Pt 4 ] [ Pt 5 ]
[ Pt 6 ] [ Pt 7 ] [ Pt 8 ] [ Pt 9 ] [Pt 10 ]

Aug. 14-19, 2002.
Fever Dreams.
Can ya have a fever dream without having a fever? Last night I dreamed I was back in Texas and this guy, this preacher who had asked me to pray with him suddenly drew back and told me to stop "queering off" on him. I twisted and turned and laid awake for a half hour while this dream kept on recurring.

I've been waking up earlier than usual lately, 2:30am the other night.  So I'm lying there thinking I'd wait it out until I knew it was 4am. After what seemed like an hour, I finally rose. It was 2:15.

When Bev came online, I told her about the dream. Prodding me on, I suddenly remembered when I had last seen this preacher. Brother *Tim. We were in a Jesus Band together. I had returned home after being gone for 10 years or more.

He asked me to pray with him as I was leaving. We leaned close to each other, he prayed aloud. I prayed silently. As we hugged to break apart, I leaned over and kissed him on the forehead.

He broke back from me. He asked me if I was "queering off" on him. Queering off on him. The phrase from the dream.

I didn't know how to tell him that I kiss everyone on the forehead after a hug. Isn't that normal behavior for a huggy person like me?

It would have pissed me off if I hadn't felt so sorry for him. He had tried all day long to figure out a way to fit me into his life. The first thing he suggested was that we could go visit this minister.

From South Africa. Who had actually worked with known lesbians (!). He said this guy knows all about why people turn out homosexual and Brother *Tim wanted to know if I would go visit him.

In the office, I felt like a prisoner confronting the warden. His summation of my problem was centered on my terrible parents, only the two most loving human beings on the planet. Now he's pissing me off. I start asking questions. I argue. I hold my ground.

My heart is pounding because i feel surrounded by lies. Once he figured out that I wasn't biting, we were escorted out. But as we were leaving, I glance at the bookcase. I see a songbook. "Oh" I say, "I wrote a sing-along once that got published." I picked up the book, looked at the table of contents and there it was. The name of the song was:

"I Will Trust The Lord."

Now that's a true story. It was like a message from above. That instead of trusting in this voodoo witchdoctors with the pseudo religious pychology, I had something much better to have faith in.

In his defense, Brother *Tim was a man who sacrificed a lot and demanded perfection in everything we did, from the sound equipment to the office. From him I learned how to write business letters. I even designed a printed newsletter for the band. So I love him and I appreciate all he taught me.

But "Stop queering off on me?"

Aug. 20-23, 2002.
Takin' It Door To Door.
A piano, a table, two chairs and a mirror ball.

That's what it takes to do our show.

As we enter into the workshop phase, we will start with the proposition that everything is on the table. No word is sacred. No song is sacred. We will sit with the video and we use the remote and we stop and start. Each of us, Jimmy, Anthony and Steve have the power to stop the tape at any point and say anything.

What we have now is what Jimmy calls the "out of the typewriter" version and it's so strong, we feel we don't have to really do that much except focus it and make it stronger.

Jimmy and I have decided we'll do anything to make it a success, including taking it door to door. We can take little sections out and perform them at churches or functions.

This past week we met with Gary & Linda down at the Zephyr and spoke with them about possibly taking it there after we finish the workshop phase. But the possibilities are endless. A piano, a table, two chairs and a mirror ball. The plan right now is to workshop it here, do a run locally to get it really tight, then possibly a national tour where which will culminate in London and New York. (Hey, if you don't dream big, what's the point?)

Over the past four days, thanks to assistance from JayEss, I've now set up a website for The Big Voice at, what else? TheBigVoice.com! We've created a new logo using pictures Bev shot in Laguna and we set the dates for the workshop performances. Sept. 12 - 29 at The Lex Theatre in Hollywood. $15 tickets. 12 performances. We also raced down to the copy store and printed out fliers.

Meanwhile, Jimmy has been working. He was cast for a guest shot in a new sitcom that's debuting in the fall called Bram & Alice starring Alfred Molina (and directed by Jerry Zaks). Jimmy plays a flamboyant theatre queen. (Imagine that.) On Monday he'll take the camera and get some "behind the scenes" shots.

Meanwhile, I've been waking up earlier and earlier, sitting here in my loft (which I've now dubbed the "upper room"), listening. Listening to music, designing logos, writing and thinking about the new piece. It's been an extraordinary time for me. Imagine going to bed at 10 and waking up at 1am to work all morning long. By the time Jimmy gets up I've already put in 8 hours.

August 24-30, 2002.
Jimmy Goes On TV!
Last night I dreamed I was at Stephen Sondheim's house and it was like I had one chance to "impress" him so I started playing the opening piano figure to "Where Is God," telling him that I was trying to strike a balance between the barrelhouse rock and roll that I learned as a rock musician with the theatrical sensibilities I learned in the nightclubs of New York. As soon as I started playing, he jumped up from his couch, ran over and sat down at the piano and we started playing together.

The excitement this week centered around a phone call from out of the blue. It was Jimmy's agent, Josh. "I have an audition for you. It's a 'flamboyant' New Yorker' for the new CBS sitcom 'BRAM and Alice.'"

Now, considering the fact that Jimmy hasn't been called for an acting audition in 10 years, this was quite the surprise. But apparently it was the producers themselves who requested Jimmy, based on a character he played 10 years ago on the sitcom "Wings." It would be a short scene for just this one episode, but hey, it was work!

Problem was Jimmy didn't have a current picture. So we took the digital into the courtyard of our apartment complex and snapped a few shots, brought them to the computer -- and voila! Instant headshot!

Then we made our way over to Hollywood to see Josh and to pick up the sides (the dialogue he'll use at the audition). I caught Josh on the phone as usual.

Visiting the agents. Jim's old headshot is just a WEE bit outdated.
Well, Jimmy went to the audition and totally nailed it. At the end of the audition they went up to him and told him to report for rehearsals the very next day. By the following Tuesday, it was taping time!

The taping took place at the old RKO (now Paramount) lot.

Naturally, I took the camera. In the audience were our friend, Jane Kean, the Habermans, Larry Dusich and a friend we made on the last cruise, Tony, a dancer.

Jane, Jimmy & Tony.

The "bar" set of BRAM and Alice

I was taking pictures until a Security Guard came along and threatened me with, "YOU CAN'T TAKE PICTURES HERE BECAUSE THIS SET IS COPYRIGHTED." (The set is copyrighted??) Um. Okay.

Roger Bart with Jimmy in costume.

On the way out I passed a cart with a sign that was very intriguing to a geek Trekkie like me:

Next week, I take off for Dallas for TLS-Dallas. I've been so excited to meet them and to see what they've done. We have interviews lined up and critics coming. Plus, voices from the past! I've been getting emails from old college pals -- Jacksonville Baptist College. For years, I've avoided even thinking about them. But now I find that many of them have been reading my diary and keeping up with me.

It all feels so cosmic. My life from before meeting the life I lead now. It's all coming face to face. And it all happens next week. And as soon as I get back from Dallas, we start rehearsing and open our workshop of The Big Voice.

Hey, once again, it's "the time before." Remember when I spoke of how excited I was before the staged reading in Laguna? Well, here was are again, it's the time before. Next week it all starts up again. TLS comes back to life. TBV, our new baby, starts its first babysteps toward adulthood.

August 31, 2002.
First Radio Play!
This email came in from Martha in Cincinnati:

Received in mail today the following note from Cheryl Eagleson of "Alternating Currents"....it's good news!  "Thank you so much for donating a copy of Steve's new CD to Alternating Currents.  Dan Wetter and I will be doing the show this Saturday and will feature it.  I will remind listeners of Youth Guardian Services.

It will also broadcast live over the Internet:
It will be 'live' but they think the transmission is of poor quality.....go to www.waif883.org tomorrow at 3:00 (US Eastern).  A better transmission will be available after noon on Sunday on the Alternating Currents website via tape..... www.alternatingcurrents.org
I've been spending so much time on the new show that I haven't properly devoted myself at all to promoting the CD. Sales for the first two weeks have been pretty strong by our standards -- remember there is no record company nor is there any promotion money. The bulk of my CD sales are from personal appearances.
Since I am not signed to a major label and cannot pay the extortion money that is required in order to get major radio play -- radios play songs according to a list they receive from management, which plays records given to them by "promotion men" who extort literally tens of thousands of dollars from the record companies to get those songs played. There are some promotion men who get this payola whether they've actually promoted the song or not. You can read about this in the book "Hit Men" or in excellent articles at salon.com.

But the end result is simple. You don't give this money to the promotion men? You don't get radio airplay. It's that simple. It doesn't matter how good your CD might be (and I'm not saying mine is any better than anyone else's; just stating a fact), these middle men (who do not directly work for either the stations or the record companies) are the gateways to the airwaves. And if any record company or radio conglomerate crosses them, they suddenly find themselves off the air.

The point is that it's people like Martha in Cincinnati who bought extra copies of Beyond The Light and sent one to "Alternating Currents" and another to the gay men's chorus there. The only promoters I have are my readers.

Speaking of the CD, I've only received a couple of emails or discussion board posts about it. Most of them have been positive. Some of them are a bit taken aback by the fact that I used more than just piano/vocal on this CD.

The fact is if I had my druthers, I'd do every record just piano/vocal. I love hearing the sound of the pedal rising and thumping. But radio doesn't respect that kind of recording. They want bells and whistles and whatever. So, we do what we can. I actually have enjoyed the whole process of adding extra sounds and arrangements.

September 1, 2002.
One New New Hell.
I sent this note to the TLS, Diary and Diary-READ lists:
Today was a very exciting day at rehearsal because we found a place for One New Hell. This song has always been one of my favorites, but what kept it from being one of my standard repertoire songs is that it's about someone else. Not that that's a bad thing. But my shows are so autobiographical that I found myself not singing it that often.

But for The Big Voice, we were looking for a song that would work in a very particular spot. And the other morning I got up, put on my headphones and just played the original Living In The Bonus Round recording of "One New Hell." What startled me was how much I loved the sound of that piano. It's mixed to sound almost like you're under it. You can hear the pedals and almost smell the wood. It's borderline sensuous, if you ask me. I just love a great piano.

Anyway, there's this moment in the new show. I don't want to say what or where because I want people coming to this workshop with zero idea ahead of time of what they're going to see. (Even the folks who saw the Laguna concert will see an entirely new and rewritten Act Two with lots more "scenes" between the two of us.) And we needed a new song for this moment.

So I took One New Hell, rearranged the verses, changed a few lyrics in the beginning and completely rewrote the lyrics for the bridge. When I sent it to Jimmy this morning via email, he came out of his room, stood in the living room below me and said, "You made me cry this morning. Those lyrics completely got to me."

YAY! One down, two more new songs to go. We open a week from Thursday.


[ Book 2-10 ] -- [ Pt 1 ] [ Pt 2 ] [ Pt 3 ] [ Pt 4 ] [ Pt 5 ]
[ Pt 6 ] [ Pt 7 ] [ Pt 8 ] [ Pt 9 ] [ Pt 10 ]
© 1996-2002 by Steve Schalchlin.
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