Fort Liquordale is a strange place. Sometimes I worry it is giving Miami a bad name. I mean, the wailing/flashing squad cars dash around Las Olas so frantically—trying to find the guy who isn’t a smuggler.
I recently (March 24, 2012) did a book signing at Sailorman’s. You see, Chuck Fitzgerald owes me, like, Big Time. I used to manage a popular marine chandlery called Marine Discounts back in the day—and I’d buy lots of shiny garbage from him when he was a struggling rep for Land ‘n Sea.
So when I published my first book, I just penned Chucky the Sailor a brief letter and stated simply: “for years I purchased blister-packed turds through you, Chuck—now I expect you to return the favor by buying my loathsome literary swill, no matter how repugnant-to-Western-Civilization that may be.”
Chuck is a good man. Not only does he stock my books (all of ‘em, yippee!) but he treats me better than I deserve when I visit. (Okay, okay, that might be very good… but, hey!)
The book signing was a huge success. We sold out all the books we had thought we’d need… in the first four minutes! Folks came from as far away at Carrabelle—a ten-hour drive. They hit the snack table like crazed, teeth-snapping piranhas. The free booze was gone in the blink of a blood-shot eye. Lord knows what the hold-up was in the bathrooms. The DEA was there snapping pictures unobtrusively—it wouldn’t feel right without ‘em. Yes, it felt, well, family if you know what I mean.
And, yeah, it is kinda fun, being a ‘best-selling author among illiterates’ as my wife often describes me.
…I can sense if a fan of mine is reading—the ‘tell’ is if their lips are moving. Yes, I get lots of fan mail written in Crayon!
Often I get ‘fan-tapes’ or .wav files emailed to me that start-off matter-of-factly with, “When my fourth wife read me your first book…”
…all-of-the-above is why my books contain so many four-letter words—so I don’t confuse my readers with a five-letter one.
The only rough spot was when the crowd realized that I only had one book left to sell—and the big-bad-bikers began to square off against the Bigger, Badder Lesbos.
Yes, it is true—I have many gay and lesbian fans. I can always tell the butch ones, “Hey, we’ve got something in common!” since I, too, am in lust-with-the-ladies.
But, the whole literary affair ended well—meaning there were only a few fistfights. And the guy who was run-over in the parking lot…well, obviously he had some mental health issues.
The amazing thing was that I next went to Waxy O’Connor’s (a popular sailor’s bar on Federal Avenue)—to do my first Fatty Unleashed stand-up comedy routine. This turned out to be hysterically funny—I mean, the bizarre situation, not my routine.
First off, the guy who hired me for $200 seemed to not know who I was—nor care. Which was fine. I felt the same way about him. But, I’m a pro, so I showed up bright and early on the morning of the day—to reassure him I’d be there on time, etc, and to confirm all was well.
The first thing that alarmed me was—he paid me upfront, without being asked.
Since he didn’t know who I was—nor care—this seemed a little odd.
“Is everything all set?” I asked.
Like any public speaker, I’d conveyed to him a list of my professional requirements: to be provided an elevated stage, a remote microphone and dependable PA system, some stage lighting, a designated person to kill the normal sound system, and someone to introduce me, etc, etc, etc.
“It will all be all set by this evening,” he said, “although I might be a couple of seconds late myself… Little League game, wouldn’t you know!”
It was right then and there I realized that the only guy who was supposed to know who I was, didn’t… nor care… and wouldn’t be attending anyway.
This could make a stage performer a tad nervous—especially on the eve of the launch of his long-awaited stand-up career—the ‘nation-wide comedy tour’ that would, I hoped, “make Chris Rock sit up and take notice!”
But, I had the money in my pocket—so I just grinned and said, “…great!”
I have a confession to make. My PR man in South Florida is homeless. I am his only client—with damn good reason. His name is Lovik the Lazy—but he seldom reveals this because he lacks the energy.
Mostly he just lies down in a prone position—so that if he spills his drink, there’s a better chance of some lick-ability before it all soaks into the ground.
I’m just trying to give you an indication of his level of incompetency.
He set this whole thing up. Yes, it appeared to be rather fishy—but, hey! This was the only establishment in the entire US of A who’d have me and my perverted sense of humor. What right did I have to say they lacked judgment?
…even I don’t bite the hand that feeds me.
Well—there are occasional exceptions.
When I got to the venue, there was no stage, no lights, and—most distressing—no PA system. And, we weren’t going to be inside the cozy bar, but rather outside alongside the super-busy, super noisy Federal highway—which roared with giant semi-trucks, blaring car horns, wailing ambulance sirens—not to mention the burning-rubber squad cars intent on arresting jaywalkers who might damage the undercarriages of the local Porsches that ran them over for some weird ‘one percenter’ sport!
I marched up to complain to the bartender. All I could see was his lips moving, mouthing to words, “…can’t hear you! Too loud!”
…which was exactly my point. Damn, I hate being scooped!
I went back into the crowded, bustling room where I was supposed to entertain in ten minutes, and started buttonholing people, asking them if they, too, were there to see Fatty. “…who?” was the almost universal response. Only five or six of the sixty people in the room had come to hear me.
I grabbed my PR man—and shook him hard. “…okay, okay,” he confessed. “They were supposed to email like, ten zillion people… and the local boat group here was supposed to send out something too… if I’d have gotten the copy there in time… which would have been, like, a super-duper-pooper-scooper PR blitz… except something whet wrong at both ends, and, well… nobody knows.”
“…nobody knows what?” I screamed.
“That you are alive. That you exist. Sorry. I mean, well… I meant well!”
So much for a ‘Fatty was mobbed by a sea of adoring admirers as he attempted to fight his way toward the stage door” news release.
Okay—more confession. I realize I’m an idiot. Only an idiot would get himself into such a mess. But, I also pride myself on being a trooper. I didn’t sail around the world twice because I was a quitter who got stymied—no sirree!
I considered my options: Return the money.
…easy to do, but no. If I’m paid, I perform.
Solution: Just do it!
So, I jumped up on the table, and shouted as loud as I could, “My wife says we don’t have much money because they pay me what I’m worth!”
I paused, to allow the laughter to roll over me.
Perhaps they were a bit more sophisticated of a crowd—so I tried my favorite Zen Buddhist joke on ‘em. “There are three types of people in this world—people who can count, and people who can’t.”
Nobody could hear me at all—at least I hoped that was why all their faces were completely blank.
“Could someone turn down the f’ing music?” I screamed.
A drunk in a corner laughed—or perhaps just swallowed back some puke.
I think it was at this point that the Bright Beautiful Dream of Being a Successful Stand-Up Comedian began to tarnish.
Nobody could hear me—and, even if they could, they didn’t seem inclined to laugh. Not many where paying me any attention whatsoever—but those who were had glassy eyes and dull, slack, dangling-open mouths.
…just when I was thinking it couldn’t get worse, it did.
An unsteady guy stood up beside me on the table, and started spitting the ‘F-word’ loudly in my ear.
Now, I realize hecklers are all part of the comedy-club mix—but I was in danger of drowning from this guy. I’ve been sprayed at demonstrations with weaker fire hoses, for gosh sakes.
I needed a foul weather jacket, an umbrella, and a PADI certificate to deal with this dude.
And, he wouldn’t stop. Nor even pause. Just screamed, “F u! F u! F u! F u! F u! F u! F u!”
Suddenly, I had an impulse to yell back, “Here’s a great punch line!” and break his nose. I know how. I’ve broken all the bones in my right hand before. I’ve even driven my crying victim to the emergency room, steering one-handed, of course. (Just because I have a temper doesn’t mean I’m callous or unhelpful.)
Luckily, one of the midget ladies (Dykes on Bikes, her t-shirt read) who’d actually come to see me flew past—and I never heard another peep out of the Mister Spits gentleman—only wet sounds, then a dull final thump… like a ripe watermelon hitting the floor… then scary silence.
I just kept spewing the joke—cringing when I saw all the other people in the room cringe with whatever was happening just astern of me.
“…I never believed in reincarnation until I married my wife—the only way our marriage makes sense is if she’s atoning for a sin in a previous life! I mean, she must have been some kind of slut to…”
Finally, the midget lady (who seemed a lot taller now) came back into my view—swaggering back to her seat.
Yes, it was a long hour. Lovik the Lazy took it upon himself to act as a gracious, glad-hand host—buying drinks for everyone who had come to see me… or even for those who just claimed to, once they realized his tipsy generosity.
Lovik the Lazy was, besides being homeless, dead broke, of course.
Thus, all but $15 dollars of my 200 went to paying the $185.00 bar tab. (Sigh.)
“Does this crap happen to Chris Rock?” I screamed—and cracked myself up.
Yeah, stand-up is a hard dollar.
My only pay-off is the adulation.
“You were GREAT, Fatty!” screamed my publicist just moments before he passed out during the taxi ride to the vacant lot where he sleeps in the back of a van.
Oh, well. One stand-up fan is better than none, I guess.
Cap’n Fatty and his wife Carolyn are currently in St. Barts—seeing if they can make people not laugh in French. “So far, so good,” reports Fatty. “C’est bon!”