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By Mark Nizer
Here I sit on US Air #1181 to Boston still spinning from last
nights dizzying events. Being on the road can be grueling and
strange events happen in some of the most harmless looking places.
(Overheard at the counter at Little Rock, Arkansas Waffle House:
"Does this look infected to you?.....ever since I got out.....".
I never fail to cringe at the bizarre qwerks and lifestyles of
some of our neighbors. Well here's a bizarre, ironic and too true
by Mark Nizer
Is That Gravy On Your Shirt or Are You Just Glad to See Me?
by Mark Nizer
You see 'em everyday. The guy that cuts you off, the bully you grew up with, the idiot that's speeding, the rude customer pushing ahead in line. They are there and like a black hole they suck in all the good and spew out the bad. I have made it my mission in life to help the mean people repent or at least have a less stressful day.
"Do you know who I am?", she squeals.
"A really uptight grumpy person?", I counter.
"I am Doctor (rhymes with tooth weisenheimer), she says, "and I am in a hurry".
"Thats great, we have something in common," I say, "me too."
The single employee working as fast as she can, is able to explain that we still live in a free society and she will have to wait, just like everyone else. Wow! Look how much heat is coming out of Dr. (ryhmes with tooth's) head. That can't be good.
It's my turn. I approach the counter and empathize with the ticket agent and try to relieve some of her stress. She appreciates the releaf. I move to the side and Dr "Tooth" comes to the counter.
I am "Dr. Tooth" she exclaims, "and I need my ticket."
"Do you have some ID?", she asks with a slight grin.
"I don't have my wallet...I'm Dr. (ryhms with tooth).
Note: Mean people never relize they are mean.
Revenge has been sweet: He's now 40 years old, lives with his Mommy and weighs in around 300 pounds. Being a drug dealer has not helped make him rich and powerful as he had seen on Miami Vice and those years of twinkie abuse have taken there toll. But despite how mean he was; I can't even go up to him and enjoy the moment. I wasn't scared; I felt sorry for him. Mean people need love too; maybe if I had let him pound on me a little longer as a kid he could have worked thru his anger.
The next mean person I encounter; I'll just tell them "I feel sorry for you", then I'll break off thier side mirror, give them some sexual advice and a pack of twinkies.
"It would be so nice if you weren't here."
I walk on stage and there is 500 screaming students all psyched
that I'm here and going to perform for them. It's a small school
and I expected 75-200 people to show. The next night I'm at a
large school (name not included to protect the innocent) I walk
out in the state of the art performing arts stage to a sparse
crowd. They have some 20,000 more students on campus and yet a
relatively small turnout.
What It Can Bring to Campus Programming
by Mark Nizer
The World Wide Web (WWW) is now widely used on virtually every college campus in the country, if not the world. Many campus libraries have fast Internet connections and color computers that students can use to "surf the Net". With the availability of this new technology, is it possible to take advantage of it for programming new events and promoting those that you already have planned? You bet!
When we consider the World Wide Web, most of us think of the graphical interface aspect of the Internet that allows the viewing of text, graphics, animation, sounds and even movies that are located on other computers that are also connected to the Internet. Because Universities are typically part of the Internet (i.e., they have a computer as a server on the Net 24 hours a day), they often have very fast connections (typically a T-1 line that enables the viewing of large complex files almost instantly). The rest of us peons have to twiddle our thumbs waiting for that exciting graphic to load, just to see that it's a picture of some sunlight-challenged guy named Sherman hunched over his Unix work station in his parents' basement. With a T-1 connection, though, you are able to access any site on the Web with very little time spent waiting. Many campuses extend these internet connections to offices and even dorms on campus.
"OK Mark, I think I got the idea," you say. "But what good is it? Aside from checking for the latest shots from Mars (http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/photo_gallery/) or downloading a pre-written term paper from the Library of Congress?"
Well, the Internet actually offers tons of cool college related links.
Many college agents are now online and offer a rich array of content for surfers. One site, College Programming Network (http://www.active-media.com/media/cpn), offers a listing of many college booking agencies with links to those agencies that have web sites on the Net. When visiting these sites you can check out their performers, learn about the agency, check tour schedules and availability, e-mail them and even request press information and videos. Many of these sites also include links to their performers with home pages. They often include specific tour schedules, cool photos, information on their acts, sound files you can download, and samples of their material. You can also send fan mail and even watch interactive movies. Shameless plug!... at my site: (http://www.silicon.net/media/nizer) you can even win a free gift!
College Programming Network also lists performers' home pages directly. Any performer or agent who has a web site and wants to be linked can do so for free. (CPN also links the viewer to the NACA home page and other cool college related links.)
The great thing about the Web is that it is easy to update and add to pages. You can always find the latest information on a performer and see where they are. Say you have a last minute cancellation and need an act. You could log on and check to see which performers are going to be in the area and e-mail your request to the agency. E-mail is often a great time saver, as it takes only moments to transmit and can be sent even when the agency may be closed. So you can work at your convenience and not only between the hours of 9-5 p.m. Monday-Friday.
Other resources include the NACA home page (http://bbs.naca.scarolina.edu/). Although this site is relatively new, it is growing. The page is set up like a mini-college campus, with information offered under a variety of categories, ranging from a Visitor's Center (information about NACA) to a Theatre (links to artists' home pages, grouped according to performance category). There is also a Kiosk (listings of regional conference schedules and future National Convention and Regional Conference dates and sites) and an Administrative area (names and addresses of NACA leadership). Other information areas are also part of the page. Through the NACA BBS (dial 803-749-3818 for a 9600 baud or less modem or 803-749-3817 for faster modems), you can access text files from Programming magazine, as well as student and professional chat areas and forums. You may also reach these files and areas by using a telnet or web browser application and entering the folowing URL: telnet:\\bbs.naca.sc.edu.
The MasterCard ACTS home page (http://bbs.naca.scarolina.edu/mcacts.htm), which can also be accessed from the NACA home page, promotes a great program that awards scholarships and cash to talented college students and their schools. You can find out when the next regional competition is, learn how to set up a contest at your school, see information about past winners, read rules and regulations, and find out about video entry procedures and participating schools. This is one of the best chances to expose your campus' talented students to performing and get some great exposure at the same time.
The Web also offers resources that list colleges and universities. Among them is http://www.globalcomputing.com/universy.html, where you can check out your rival schools' home pages, their upcoming events and perhaps join in a block booking of a nearby artist.
Those who book big concerts may want to check out Pollstar, the Concert Hotwire (http://www.pollstar.com). It offers a host of information on upcoming tours and events.
Campus Activities Today magazine (CAT) (http://www.cameopub.com) maintains a monthly online magazine, including articles, reviews, interviews and other content.
The Web will change the way we look at the world. Right now, it offers virtual color "brochures" and fast easy access to communication and information. In the coming months and years the Web will be changing
dramatically. As access speeds increase, live video and movies will be common. You'll be able to view (with no waiting) promo tapes and music videos that you can save and view again. CD quality sound bits are already available but are a drag to download. MIDI has made downloading huge sound files a breeze. With the addition of Java Script and Macromedia Shockwave, true interactive sites will prevail. Dramatic interfaces with the look and feel of real 3-D controls will zip you around 3-D worlds (see http://quicktime.apple.com/) and interact with your input.
Just for the record, I believe the web will replace television. There -I said it. In 10 years we can all look back and see what a brilliant observation I made or what a bozo I was. ... We'll see.
PS: You can access all the URL's in this article from my online Library
Tales of the Surreal
PERSONAL INJURY ASSURANCE
One sure thing when you're on the road performing is that Murphy's Law is in full effect. Things go wrong and people get hurt. Since I travel alone the "people get hurt" is always me!
My contract rider asks for a wine glass to be supplied for me in the show. I balance the wine glass, full of water, on top of 8 cigar boxes stacked in a precarious pattern. Then, I balance the whole stack on my chin. After 5 seconds, I let the stack fall and catch the wine glass (usually). Well, this particular school didn't read the rider and were scrambling to come up with a "wine glass". They searched back stage and found a very old and fragile martini glass. I balanced the small glass on the stack and let it fall. As I caught the glass it disintegrated in my hand. The resulting cut ran 3 inches across my palm and yes, "I'm a bleeder". This happened 15 minutes into my 1 hour plus show. So I buck up and duct taped my hand together. As blood ran down my arm I entertained the crowd and created a beautiful red collage on the floor. Denny Dent eat your heart out.
PERSONAL INJURY ASSURANCE (TAKE 2)
As I'm being introduced, I'm warming up in my dressing room. To make more space I closed up a folding table and propped it up against the wall. Of course, the table falls over as I'm stretching in a backbend. Luckily, it doesn't hit the floor since my face is there to stop it. "Ladies and Gentlemen MARK NIZER." Slightly stunned, but thinking I'm OK, I run on stage. All is wel,l except I can't believe I'm sweating already and I've only been on a few minutes and the crowd seems unusually quite. I wipe away the sweat and realise why they are quite. I'm sweating blood. The gash across my hairline is dripping blood down my face. Duct tape once again curbs the flow, until I get three stitches after the show.
HEY BARRY, I THINK I'M BLEEDING
Last summer I opened for Barry Manilow for 3 weeks. It was a great experience and everyone was great to work with. We had a very hectic schedule. Waking up in one city and flying on his private jet to the next venue just hours before curtain. After I did my 30 minutes I would practice back stage. There was always enough space between the back curtain and the stacks of road gear. So there I am bouncing a soccer ball on my head while juggling 4 rings. The last catch is done by pulling all the rings over my head while bouncing the ball one last time very high. This time it bounced off the mark and went way out in front of me. Being the determined performer I gave it my all to run forward and catch it. Unfortunately I failed to see the large black steel pipe sticking out from a lighting truss. I didn't catch the ball but I did catch the steel pipe in my skull. After I woke up, I had blood flowing from a large gash in my head. The techies summoned the house doctor who said I had to go to the hospital for stitches. "Not an option" I said, knowing if I agreed, I would miss our plane that night and miss the next gig. In a flash of brilliance he tries a new untested approach. He uses super glue to fasten the two halves of my wound back together. That, 10' feet of gauze wrapped around my head and a strategically placed Barry Manilow base ball cap and I had the complete medical travel package. 1 hour later I'm sitting on the jet onto the next adventure. I have a head ache.
DEER HUNTING WITH NO LICENSE
I'm going from Detroit to Pittsburgh to catch a plane home. It's 3am, I'm on a major highway, I'm engrossed in a novel. I'm driving? Yeah I know what your thinking reading and driving what kind of a psychopath would do that? Well it was a really good book. A couple of hours pass then "BLAM" out of no where the windshield explodes with a horrific noise. I slam on the brakes and pull over. Thinking the worst "I've hit a homeless man" I am relieved to find a huge chunk of fur on the front bumper. Either I hit a large dear or a homeless man wearing a cheap fur coat.
The highway patrol comes and fills out the paper work. "Happens all the time" he explains, as he helps me pull the front fender off so the car is drivable. I don't tell him I was reading. As matter of fact I've never been able to finish that book or read any book while driving. I stick with Readers Digest on airplanes.
I'm going to just make my flight and must rush to return the car. I pull into the rental lot strategically with the good side showing. I hand in the paper work and dash for the plane. Buy the time I get home to Los Angeles there are several inquiring messages from the rental company. My AMEX covers everything.
PS: I never found the deer's body, and like to think he walked away from the accident. Deers don't need their entire body and have extra legs for this exact occurrence. Next time, I'll be sure to get a hunting license and gun. It'll be much less stressful. I wonder walk book I should bring?
LOOKING AT THE MOON WITH THE MAN ON THE MOON
I'm in Bora Bora on a cruise ship. Buzz Aldrin is aboard as a guest lecturer. We are backstage after a farewell show. It's like a scene from the Love Boat television series. We are on deck, it's night, there is a beautiful full moon. I think back to Buzz Aldrins lecture the night before; where he discussed his historic moon walk as the second man on the moon. "What a beautiful moon" I declare, with the appropriate awe and respect. "Yeah, I've been there" he says with the perfect amount of satiric intonation. I try to grasp the enormity of the situation. I'm on a ship in the middle of no where with one of a handful of people in the world that have been to the moon. I look at this unassuming man and think wow this guy has actually been there. That same night, I watch horror movies with Vincent Price; but that's another story.
In a world of instant TV stimuli and mega-events (even though there are now only 4 Spice Girls) Performing Arts are sometimes lost in the crunch. TV has become the opium of the masses and the Roman Coliseum of our age. Violence although fake; is so pervasive and over done that a guy tap dancing on stage or playing the Cello seems benign. If that hits home with you then you've never seen YoYo Ma kick ass on his cello. Does TV really entertain ? Doesn't it really just shut off your brain so it can vegetate. I'm all for Vegetation; but the real rush of entertainment is to be there in the middle of it all. Watch as it happens right in front of you. Compare a 60 minute episode of 90210 to a live performance of "Cirque de Soleil". Sure you've learned a new zip code and your able to attend the event in your favorite ripped boxer shorts but was your brain really getting the kick it needed.
I've attended many good and bad Performing Arts events. The opera "Nixon in China" had me snoring like a baby in 10 minutes. I can't sleep with the TV on. There's so much "excitement" I'm afraid too... I might miss the blue light special on Home Shopping Network or the latest on Monica's blue dress. But to me, 60 minutes of bad performing arts is better than 30 minutes of TV any day. The problem with performing arts is, you have to leave your couch. It involves putting on clothes and coordinating with friends (if you have some) and making the effort.
When I see a great live performance my scalp tingles. With TV, it only does when the Selson Blue commercial is on and I feel guilty for not washing my hair. Sitting thru the few bad performances is worth that euphoric feeling when someone gets it right. Whether it's a solo singer who touches my emotion with a amazing song about freedom or a tap dancer doing something with their feet I can only dream of, there out there waiting for you.
So exactly what is a performance art? Is it a guy pulling up a 10 pound cinder block with a piece of rope tied to his most private part ? Yes it is, if you put music and lights to it (on the stage, not the part). Is it a grown man juggling 5 ping balls using only his mouth ? Is it a ballett dancer doing a double tour into a bucket of jello.. Yes! Yes Yes!. Performing arts is anything that makes you think, makes you feel and is best tasted live and in person. Sit close, sit often and have a big serving. My secret weapon in judging good performing arts is the scalp test. When I see someone truly kicking some performing butt my scalp actually tingles. If I get the scalp tingle it is the best feeling. I have never had a scalp tingle while watching a re-run of TV.
I must admit that some movies, when viewed in a great theater, have made my scalp do it's thing. But at a cost of 25 million and filled with careful editing and special effects it is processed and "fake". To me, the amazing thing about live performance is the truly miraculous things we can do with no special effects. Sure the script may be a little rough or the performer may have some less than stellar moments, but the unexpected and spontaneity is what makes it so great.
I worked with the Red Elvis's last night for a Parents Weekend gig. They are the remaining members of Limpopo. When I went on, there were some 1500 people packed into every seat. In one of the most bizarre events in my career, as soon as the Red Elvis's started playing 1440 people stood up and filed out. It was like some sort of anti-russian protest. My first guess was that the parents thought the music was too loud, although the sound in the main speakers was turned OFF and only the monitors were playing. The more I thought about it, I realized the parents were scared. Scared because, they had never heard of these guy, were playing music they never heard before and they looked different. Well, if they had dared to experience something new they would have been treated to one of my most recent "scalp tingling" events. In front of a small crowd these guys put on a show that everyone on campus would have loved. One was the best guitarist I have ever seen. A drummer with a cool fuzzy shirt had amazing skill and hand flourishes. The bass players fire red engine hair was the perfect showcase for his animated face and infectious personality. The lead singer did a satirical Elvis bit that even Elvis would have appreciated, complete with karate kicks and pelvis gyrations.
Dare to try new things. Attend an event you normally would not and skip a night of bad TV. A night of live theater is worth five 90210 re-runs. Believe me I checked.
Airline travel has become a part of everyday life. What was once reserved for special occasions and corporate executives is now very ordinary part of or lives. Everyone flys. But are you really getting the best deal and service. I've boarded flights that I paid $208 for and the guy sitting next to me paid $1200. Many travelers throw away money by not knowing their choices. Airline travel has become a tough and grueling business. Where frequent travelers are packed on crowded flights with less and less service and tougher regulations. In my business, performing at 100's of universities a year, I fly as much as 27 times a month. To survive this and come out on top you need to know the rules. It's a game, with winners and losers. To win use the following travel secrets I've collected and you'll be flying in style at a great price and with minimum stress.
Who's paying for it?
Many business travelers care only about service and schedules since their company pays for all their travel. Many buy full faire tickets that can be changed for no fee. These are very expense. A full faire ticket can run as high as $1800.00. Most of us don't work for Money-r-us Inc. and the bottom line is very important to you.
To use a travel agency or not
Travel agents are very useful if you fly often and your travel is complicated. They know which carriers fly which routes and can price a certain market and find the lowest faire. A good travel agent will quickly learn what your preferences are; what seat you like, what times you like to travel and your preferred airports. Travel agents used to be free ;getting paid a small percentage of the ticket price by the airlines. With this in mind, remember a travel agent made more money if your ticket was more expensive. New airline pricing changes have cut travel agency commissions to a set amount. This was good for travelers because it reduced travel agencies from being motivated to book you an expensive fare and increase their commissions. Because of this cut in commissions many travel agencies have changed their fee policy and now charge a fee for each ticket purchased. Typically, $25 per ticket. For most people this is well worth it because of the knowledge and service they provide. But if you travel often, to many different cities and buy a lot of separate tickets, this can add up. When I'm touring, I may book 15 tickets in a month. That's $375 in service charges alone.
Many travel agencies don't recommend or price Southwest or other discount carriers. Either ask or call them directly. Discount airlines often have better deals than the major airlines. However they often have several connections or stop overs and have few or no meals. As you learn more about the airlines and their routes you can often find a carrier that will service your itinerary with no or only a single connection.
If you are sure of your travel plans, try using a ticket broker. They offer very reduced fares and often need no advance purchase. Cheap Tickets is a good example of this. They supply great fares but very little service. And when things go bad your on your own. One time they forgot to include the ticket in a FedEx I needed that day. That was in May and I have never heard from customer service (it's an answering machine, staffed by 6 people); despite my telling them I was writing an article on travel and including this information. Never the less I use them for 80% of my air travel. If you do use these services book your ticket as an e-ticket (e for electronic) this will save fedex fees and lost tickets.
Fewer and fewer airlines are feeding their passengers. Those that do have cut back on choices. "Do you want water with that plastic cup?" When you book your flight ask if they have any special meals. Often you can get diet, low salt, vegetarian or kids meals with nothing more than asking. These meals are better than standard meals and at no additional cost.
Airline Travel Kit
Put the following items in your travel to insure a smooth trip.
Ear plugs and eye covers; so you can get some sleep. Request a window seat so you can lean your head against the wall. If the flight is lightly booked; after the doors to the aircraft are closed, get up and move to a empty row of seats in the back. After take off you can stretch out and sleep in comfort. Better than first class and same price as coach. Make sure to grab a pillow and blanket as you board. It is usually hot when boarding a plane but gets very cool as the flight reaches altitude.
Headphones. These are great for two uses. Often you can use them to listen to free video programs. They are more comfortable and better sounding than the ones the airline supplies. The second use is to wear them and pretend you are listening to a intriguing program when you are stuck next to a chatty passenger set on telling you their political views or why they were wrongly convicted for 4 hours.
Carry chewing gum if your ears are sensitive to air pressure changes. If they are, chew it during takeoff and 1/2 hour before and until landing.
A good book. Always have something to read. You'll be standing in line, waiting and bord. You'll breeze thru this time engrossed in a good book. Don't read "Great Airline Disasters".
Hurry up and wait
Always leave extra time going to the airport. There is nothing worse than hitting a traffic jam and watching your flight take off over your head as you finally approach the airport. Re-booking and pleading for mercy from the airline is not pretty. I arrive at least one hour before a flight and an hour and a half for larger airports. Leave even more time if you have to park your care or do any special changes to your ticket.
If you have luggage to check, check it curb side with the skycaps. They are much faster than going inside and waiting in line and many can print boarding passes and give seat assignments right there. Tip them a dollar per bag and tip them when you give them your ticket and ID. This lets them know up front you appreciate their service. Skycaps are paid very little and rely on tips for their salary.
Airlines used to allow 3 bags checked and no carry on or 2 checked bags and one carry on. Weight limits of 70 lbs. per checked bag and strict size limits on carry on baggage make packing for your trip critical. Many airlines have reduced the bag check policy to 2 bags. Charging $50 for each additional. Also if you have additional bags and are checking in at the curb the skycap will have to take you inside and stand in line to pay the fees and check the bag.
Always call ahead
Before you leave your house or hotel. Always call the airline and confirm your flight and that it is on time and the weather looks good. Also make sure they have a phone number for you that they can call if something changes. I use my cell phone for this. I have been saved many times buy a call from the airlines and been able to make other arrangements before even arriving at the airport.
When trouble happens
When trouble happens. Remain calm. Remember getting pissed off at the gate agent and counter personnel will only make them not want to help you. Lose the attitude and get to a phone and make a reservation on the next flight. If you have a cell phone use it and get in line at customer service or any check in counter. If you use a travel agency call them, otherwise, call the airline directly. If a flight is delayed find out why. If it is weather delay see if you can reroute thru a city without weather problems. If it is a mechanical delay try to get a realistic estimate of when it will be fixed. See if there is another flight that will still get you there and expect the worst. Many times a airline with a mechanical problem will re-book you on another carrier to get you where you are going. Making the back-up reservation when problems arise is useful when the flight is actually cancelled and all the passengers start scrambling for seats on the next flights. Be ready to go to the nearest counter and service desk and set-up your new flight. If they are out of tickets on that flight explain you already have a reservation and give them the record information. Read your book some more.
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