Archive for the ‘Oldest Son of an Oldest Son (Series)’ Category

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“WE’RE GOING TO PASS”

November 18, 2009

IT HAPPENS 99.9% OF THE TIME

THE REAL REASON FOR THE DECISION IS SELDOM REVEALED

ANYONE IN THE BUSINESS KNOWS THEY MUST TO BE PREPARED FOR THIS 

Facebook, Tuesday, November 17, 2009.

There’s always questions:

Was there something I could have done differently?

Did I upset the producer, or the stage manger?

Did I see too much into their praises?

Why did they bother to give me a night?

How could I have better prepared for their network?

Should I go in an entirely different direction, or pitch this concept to another network?

None are answered quickly – some are never answered. You gather the remnants of what used to be your life – which was blown up over the last several weeks preparing for this project – and you re-assemble it.

We parents understand what it feels like when we have a son or daughter that is going through a tough time and there’s very little we can do to help, other than “be there” for them.

Those of us in the performing arts understand this on a very different level. The unacceptance of an effort that took hundreds of hours to create is mind-numbing. So much creativity, and so many skills, arbitrarily dismissed – with no definitive reason given – is mentally and emotionally crushing.

But you’ve been here before, and in all likelyhood, will be here again. You’ve come this far. You now know many more people in the business than you knew eight months ago. You have supporters all over the country. One person’s opinion is no deterent. You move on.

Do as you have always done, son.

Stay the path.

Love,

www.MichaelKontras.com

 

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THIS WAS IT

November 17, 2009

I lead a “safe” life.

Even when I was playing music for a living, I approached it like a small business owner – fiscally conservative, watching expenses, creating my own marketing, pricing my show competitively, not taking gigs for next-to-nothing just to be performing – a financially dangerous precedent you learn quickly not to set. I performed in places that I knew liked my style of music, going to the same venues every one or two months, seldom taking chances with “new” audiences. It was steady, weekly employment that yielded decent results for nearly 40 years – an accomplishment few musicians have experienced.

Adam has taken the chances I never took when I was in the entertainment business. He’s pushed himself way beyond his comfort zone, instinctively knowing it’s what he had to do to succeed at a high level. He moved across the country to follow a dream, undeterred by naysayers. As he continued to hit brick wall after brick wall, facing rejection year after year, he did not alter his path. He stayed with it, always creating, always trying new approaches and ultimately, moving forward with every step – regardless of what it looked like to others.

This is why I don’t exhibit pride for Adam’s successes – I have nothing to do with them. To say that I am happy for him is a HUGE understatement, but I am not the boastful “proud parent.” He knows how I feel, and that’s all that matters to me.

Now comes November 12, 2009.

 

I arrived in LA the day before, around 11:00am. Adam picked me up and we went straight back to the house. His friend from Columbus, Marty, had arrived yesterday. There were technical glitches to work out: a loud audio “hum” and a laptop that had to be incorporated into the show for the pre-recorded segments. By the time 11:00pm rolled around, he was ready for the first run-through of the entire show.

We never finished a complete run-through. Everyone was exhausted. We finally hit the sack about 12:30am – a 22+ hour day for me.

Adam was up and re-editing parts of the show long before I got my “six.” He was soon ready to pack everything and get going – still not having rehearsed the show in its entirety.

We had to make two trips to the Hudson Theatre to get all of the equipment to the venue.

Once there, we set everything up and the audio hum we thought we had reduced was back, in spades.

Along with the wonderful stage crew at the Hudson, we spent well over an hour trying to isolate the problem, concluding it was in the PC being used to project the four videos for the TVs.

Finally, Paul Stein, the Artistic Director for Comedy Central, brought the speakers from the PC in his office and connected them to the video PC, greatly reducing the hum. After throwing a microphone in front of the speakers, the hum was insignificant enough not to affect the show.

 

It was time to write down the cues for sound and lighting – a technical run-through. This was not a complete run-through, i.e. “dress rehearsal,” start-to-finish, as Adam had hoped. Shortly after the lighting and sound cues were established, cameras and cameramen arrived. Because we were running behind schedule, and to Adam’s dismay, the crew was told to take a break for dinner.

He would have to rehearse on his own.

Somehow, it all came together. The background music faded away and the room went dark. The big screen came to life with the intro.

 

A few minutes later, Adam is live, introducing the Egos.

 

Laughs came quickly, even in places where no one expected them. The applause was abundant throughout the show. And then, almost as fast as it started, it was over. It was the fastest 31 minutes I’d ever witnessed.

Adam probably presented the most unique comedy show the attending TV executives had ever seen. (This is my opinion, experience and knowledge speaking – not pride.)

It was so good that he did not have to say anything to convince them it could be a half hour weekly TV show. He simply performed and let his show speak for itself.

And it did!

Jim Sharp, Comedy Central’s Senior Vice President for Original Programming and Development (West Coast) spoke with Adam immediately after the show and said he could “…absolutely see it as a TV show…” on Comedy Central. He then said what every creator/entertainer wants to hear – “Call me next week” – as opposed to “We’ll call you.”

Josh Lieberman, a manager at 3 Arts Entertainment (a production company with a huge list of shows to their credit) joined Jim with kudos for Adam, saying the characters Adam created were very “…real…” and “…well-acted.”

 

It doesn’t get any better than that.

After taking the equipment home, we went out for a bite. Adam was receiving texts of praise from those who were either there or had heard about the outcome.

 

I sent e-mails back home saying I would call in the morning.

The next day, we returned equipment and Marty returned to Columbus. It was time to decompress. We made calls and returned texts and e-mails.

Mentally reviewing the conversation with Jim Sharp and Josh Lieberman from the night before, Adam could not think of any way the next conversation could go other than in a positive direction – whatever that might be. (I’m not one to speculate.)

We watched the nail-biting OSU v Iowa game on Saturday, in 1080p high definition, sitting eight feet away from a ten foot screen. (Now THAT’S the way you watch a football game!)

On the flight home Sunday, I realized how blessed I am to have been included in such a pivitol moment in Adam’s life. He won’t know how pivitol for a short while.

Congratulations, Adam.

In my opinion, this was it!

Sincerely,

www.MichaelKontras.com

Here’s the show’s intro.

Here’s some miscellaneous videos tied together with Adam and I playing Beatles’ Rockband for the background music.

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FROM THE STORE TO THE FACTORY

November 6, 2009

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One week from today, I will be at the famous Hudson Theatre in LA watching Adam perform live the show that is ten years in the making.

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But it’s not pride making that statement. It’s a fellow artist who more than understands the incredible perseverance necessary to even get close to this point. This is not something a parent can teach a child which is why you will not observe any chest-thumping on my part. And, from what I have observed, the same goes for Adam.

HudsonTheatre02

When you work this hard, you learn to let your work speak for itself. Bragging diminishes the effort – humility augments it.

It’s been eight years since his performance at the Comedy Store. And now, he’ll be performing for the people who run the “factory” that makes comedy come alive 24/7 – Comedy Central.

So I will take this moment to congratulate Adam: the creator, writer, producer, director, videographer, editor and actor of what I am sure will be one of the most unique live shows the Hudson Theatre has ever seen. 

HudsonStage

Giddy-up, Adam!

Sincerely,

DadSignature2

 

 

www.MichaelKontras.com

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OLDEST SON OF AN OLDEST SON – VOL. 6

October 9, 2009

InfluenceLOGO

Today, I sit in near disbelief. It’s Adam’s birthday, again.

Keeping with Hollywood tradition, I will not state his age. (You know you can look it up, right?) Besides, this is not about his age – it’s about a friend that also happens to be my oldest son.

We parents are (for better or worse) influences in our children’s lives – even after they become adults. The influence certainly diminishes with time, but I don’t believe it ever ceases. There are, of course, other non-familial influences such as athletes, musicians, teachers, actors and so on.

None of this is breaking news.

But something interesting has happened over the past few years that may be news to some: Adam has become an influence in my life. I’ve watched him struggle through the minefield that is the entertainment industry, admiring his persistence against tough odds. (Anyone who thinks it’s a glamorous life is clueless.) That persistence is an influence on me to keep moving towards my goals, whatever they may be. His sense of humor makes me laugh out loud – something that I need to do as often as possible. He’s see things through a different aperture, which reminds me to not take my views too seriously.

Many that know us say we’re “exactly alike.” Not true. We have common interests, but we do differ on some of those interests and talk about those differences. We don’t try to change each other’s thinking. That would be insanity. (“Kontras” means contrarian in Greek and both of us more than live up to our name.) We simply state our views and leave it at that. Here’s an example in the comment section of one of my posts.

The “influencer” is now being influenced by the “influencee.”

Happy Birthday, Adam.

Love,

DadSignature2

 

 

www.MichaelKontras.com

PS – Happy Birthday to you too, John.

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OLDEST SON OF AN OLDEST SON – VOL. 5

September 27, 2009

2922DaysLogo

“What do you mean, you wouldn’t do the show?”

“How could I do the show knowing you just died in a plane crash, only two months after 9-11?”

“Because it’s would be my dying wish, that’s how.”

“Dad. Seriously. You’ve got to be kidding.”

“Don’t worry. I’ll be there. I wouldn’t miss it.”

His debut at the Comedy Store was the same night and I wanted to be there for him.

I left Columbus airport around 8:30am, headed to L.A. During the quick layover in Detroit, I learned about a plane that crashed leaving New York. Adam heard about a crash, but with no details, freaked out for a few minutes. That’s when we had the above “what if” conversation.

Once I arrived, we quickly cleaned up and hit the road, equipment in tow. He had to roll in all of his gear and set it off to the side while others performed. He was next to last in the line-up. Eddie Griffin would close the evening, testing some new material. Time flew by and it seemed that in an instant, Adam was up. With help from friends, he and I quickly rolled the two large racks with 2, 27-inch TVs in each, and the necessary electronics, onto the tiny stage – a stage designed for a single person telling jokes. Adam had all the connections completed and was ready to go within three minutes.

At that time, the Comedy Store had three different performance areas. The large room was used for well-known acts. The room I’ll call the “medium” room was for up-and-comers or big names that wanted to work out some new material before they “go live” in a large venue. And upstairs, was a very small area I assumed was the “beginner’s” stage.

In the large room that night, was a fundraiser for the victims of the 9-11 attack. It was nearly packed. Adam was performing in the “medium” room, which was full. No one was performing upstairs, to my knowledge.

After a brief introduction, the lights went dark, except for one spotlight. “Adam and the Trinitrons” (now the “Egos”) came to life in music and dialogue. All five characters performed simultaneously to a stunned audience that had never seen anything like it. Less than three minutes into the show, the crowd was hooked, and for the next twenty-seven minutes, mesmerized. Throughout the performance, I noticed more people coming into the room.

ComedyStoreRearShot

There were no available seats, so they lined the walls, two deep in some areas. By the time the show was over, those seated were on their feet, applauding wildly and screaming praises. Adam brought down the house. The large room had emptied and as many as humanly possible squeezed into the “medium” room to watch. It was like nothing I’d ever witnessed. I know there was a brief moment when I was in tears.

I flashed back to all the work he had put into this concept: the hours of frustration rendering video on PCs not designed for these types of projects; the electronic failures and the technicians that said it couldn’t be done without doing this or having that; the people who wanted a ridiculous amount of money to do the video work – which ultimately forced Adam to learn how to do it and do it better; the early performances in front of Columbus audiences, many of whom – with the exception of family and friends – weren’t impressed, because they just didn’t get it; and yes, the occasional disagreements with Dad.

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All was forgotten for one night – November 12, 2001.

ComedyStorePromo

Exactly eight years – to the day – another milestone in the life of “Adam and the Egos” will come to pass. On November 12, 2009, Adam will be recording a pilot for Comedy Central in L.A. It will feature all five “Egos” performing simultaneously, in front of a live audience, with cameras capturing everything.

AdamEgos

This has never been done before in the history of live television.

I wouldn’t miss it.

Sincerely,

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www.MichaelKontras.com

PS – I should probably mention: Adam plays ALL of the characters in his show.

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OLDEST SON OF AN OLDEST SON – VOL. 4

September 22, 2009

TravelinManLOGO

His visits are fast-paced, sometimes with places and times charted on a spreadsheet so that hopefully, all can be seen. A large family and many friends require extensive schedule coordination and pre-planning.

And so it is when my oldest son “drops in.”

Adam’s most recent visit was, as usual, multi-faceted and this time, with a High School Class Reunion thrown into the timeline. He never worries about a place to stay – whether it’s at our home or elsewhere. There’s almost always a car he can use while he’s in town. And food.

Meals are beyond plentiful – often causing weight gain for him (and me!). Because he genetically inherited my “non-existent” metabolism, it’s a major effort to get weight off quickly, which is exactly what he must do when he returns to the West Coast after a visit. He’s maintaining that “Hollywood Look.” Everyone in “the biz” is always ultra-focused on staying very slim. I’ve been “very slim” a couple times as an adult and I can testify that it is not easy for either of us. Eventually, I’ll get upset with myself enough, again, to do something about my weight, again. It’s a never-ending battle. Kenny (my other son), to his fortune, did not get this gene.

A couple of events stick out about this visit. Adam, Kenny and I – for the first time ever – had dinner together with no one else around. I felt a little like Lorne Greene’s character, “Ben Cartwright” in the old NBC western series “Bonanza,” dining with my two grown sons.

Cartwrights

They couldn’t be more different and even though they are 15 years and 2,258 miles apart, they appear to have a good relationship. I’m sure they know more about each other than I know about either of them – which is fine by me. I am not one of those parents that needs to know everything about my adult children’s personal lives. Lack of knowledge, in this case, is a good thing.

The other event that seems worth mentioning is – oddly enough – my brother, Nick’s, tattoo.

A little background.

Although we are only 14 months and 9 miles apart, Nick and I are as different as Adam and Kenny, and yet, there does seem to be a commonality between us. If you were to ask me to define it, I would fail the task. Other than being raised in the same household, by the same parents and grandparent, and attending the same schools through high school, those who know us would find it difficult to describe that which makes us enjoy each other’s company.

Defining the differences is much easier. Nick is ultra-gregarious – I tend to be more reserved. He really enjoys “a few” beers – I’m good for one, maybe two, as long as there’s food involved. He’s been married to the same woman for over 30 years. Me? Not exactly.

So Nick might do some things that I would never consider – like getting a tattoo. And not just any tattoo – but one from an award-winning tattoo artist.

Adam and I were saying goodbye to Nick, his wife and oldest daughter after a nice visit – and of course, lunch. As we were walking towards Nick’s car, I asked Adam if he had ever seen Nick’s tattoo.

“No. What tattoo?”

“Show him, Nick” I said, smiling as I anticipated Adam’s response.

With absolute pride and no hesitation whatsoever, Nick couldn’t pull up his T-shirt sleeve fast enough to show off Road Runner and Wiley Coyote, complete with background. After his initial shock, Adam immediately decided it was worth a picture on his cell phone.

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NicksTatoo

Here’s another “look” from Nick. He’s wearing a Christmas gift from his very patient family members.

Nick 01

Please don’t get the wrong idea. Nick does have a “normal” look.

 Nick 02

But even this picture says, “If you’d have given me two more seconds, I would’ve given you a very different face.”  Like the cat that ate the canary.

Could the fact that Adam and Kenny being as dissimilar as my brother and me also be genetic? I don’t know and life’s too short to care. I’m just thankful for the relationships.

 Nick 04 

Kenny-Adam

There is an old Ricky Nelson tune called “Travelin’ Man” that I would also attribute to Adam’s visits here, there and everywhere. (I couldn’t resist the Beatles‘ reference). “Travelin’ Man” starts out like this: “I’m a travelin’ man made a lot of stops all of the world. And in every port I own the heart of at least one lovely girl”

This is where I exit and your imagination takes over.

Sincerely,

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www.MichaelKontras.com

PS – Adam’s name came from Pernell Roberts’ character on Bonanza, Adam Cartwright

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OLDEST SON OF AN OLDEST SON – VOL. 3

July 19, 2009

IndyAdamEpilogueLOGO

It’s Friday evening. I’m checking my e-mails, as usual. I see one from Adam:

“can you skype tomorrow sometime?  what’s your schedule… i’m HOME!!!!!”

“Hi there! WELCOME BACK! Lonna and I are going to a cook-out at the home of the bassist and his wife at around 4:00pm. The rest of the band will be there as well. So, you tell me. Any time before say 3:30 is good. Can’t wait! Dad” 

“Awesome… I’ll give you a call in the morning… i’m shutting offeverything for a day.  UGH. -A”

Throughout the next morning and early afternoon, I’m anticipating his call. He’s good at keeping his word, so why would this morning be an exception? He’s back in the country, so what could possibly be keeping him from calling? It’s three hours earlier in L.A. so I’m not expecting a call before 11:00am. But now, it’s nearly 1:00pm and I’m in the middle of some housecleaning. If he calls now, I’ll have to leave everything in a mess to take the call, which means turning on my PC, logging on, setting up my camcorder and lights. Knowing us, we’ll gab for a while which means I’ll probably be late for the cook-out. Okay, Adam. Call, already.

As I’m walking from the kitchen to the living room, I see Lonna working on some of the landscaping in the front of the house. I notice someone approaching her…

IT’S ADAM!?!?!?

A few minutes later Kenny, my other son, stopped by, not knowing his older brother was in town. As I later learned, NO ONE knew. Adam changed his flight plans in Boston the day before, creating a 27-hour lay-over, which included sleeping in the airport. He decided L.A. could wait a few more days and came to town completely unannounced. It felt great to have the four of us together again in such an unexpected way.

It was one of the best surprises I’ve ever experienced.

When I made the decision to be a professional musician (in my mid-teens), it was not because I wanted to make millions of dollars. No one with even half a brain gets in the business for that reason. It was not because I wanted to prove something to everyone around me. I’m sure they were convinced of my insanity the moment I made the choice. It was not in defiance of my parents who wanted me to “…put the music away…” and go to law school. They couldn’t understand how music could be a way of life and not a pastime. When I decided to become a professional musician, I disappointed nearly everyone.

And yet, I knew it was the right path for me.

“…since my father was a performer my entire childhood (full-time musician until just a few years ago) there will always be that yearning to make him proud. I have, that’s not in doubt, but he will always be the first phone call. He will always be the one person who knows every second of my life in a way no one can, and with an understanding only a fellow performer can have.” Adam

No regrets.

Sincerely,

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www.MichaelKontras.com