Monday, May 31, 2004

Memorial Day - The Big Kid Next Door

This essay has been removed and submitted for publication.

Sunday, May 30, 2004

When The Residents Played Lawrence

On February 12, 1986, The Residents played Lawrence, Kansas. As part of their "13th Anniversary tour", they brought their unique music and stage show (and guitarist Snakefinger) to Cogburns (AKA the Bottleneck). How did a small Kansas college town secure a date on this prestigious tour? Former KJHK jock, music staffer, and Outhouse founding father John Cheney remembers:

FJ: First of all, describe The Residents to the uninitiated?

JC: I remember describing the show as the weirdest musical / dance show you could ever hope to see. It was kind of like seeing a Bob Fosse ballet with Kraftwerk providing sound.

FJ: Who were the principal promoters involved in bringing the Residents to Cogburns?

JC: Duncan Burnette was the promoter and I was his Lawrence "liaison". I approached Mona Tipton about having the show at Cogburns. She was a huge Residents fan and said sure! I also made the posters and tickets. I took a poster for a Z grade movie from the 50's called "Teenage Frankenstein Meets Bloody Mary" and modified things until it was a Residents poster. Duncan lived in Kansas City, managed Rock Therapy records for years, and promoted a few incredible shows there in the mid 80's. A couple of my faves: Einsturzende Neubauten + Foetus, Nick Cave (right after the 1st Bad Seeds album came out), and Sonic Youth.

FJ: Once you found out The Residents were touring, how did you go about securing a Lawrence date?

JC: Duncan is the one who got in touch with the Residents. I think the booking agent that put together the Nick Cave tour recommended him as a potential promoter in the area.

FJ: Give me your impressions of Snakefinger?

JC: I thought Snakefinger was awesome! I talked to him for awhile before the show. He spent quite awhile playing pinball and talking about this and that. He kept bringing up how much he loved Amsterdam and basically wanted to go there and never leave. He was more gregarious than the rest of the folks on the tour.

FJ: To what extent did The Residents go to protect their identities?

JC: The Residents were very cool. They didn't try to hide their faces or anything like that during the day. They looked like a genteel bunch of older San Francisco artists. The Residents are all guys. There were two women with them as well that were dancers. The whole group ate at Tin Pan Alley before the show. I don't remember anything about back stage. I think they hung out in their RV instead closer to show time. I do remember missing the first part of the show because Duncan and I were in the cooler counting money on top of a bunch of kegs.

FJ: How much did the band require for their show? Was it a flat fee or a percentage of the door?

JC: Memory is hazy here. I think it was $2000 plus (after Duncan recouped his expenses) a hefty percentage of the door. That was a ton of money for then! As a comparison I think he paid Sonic Youth about $700.

FJ: Cogburns was packed that night. Did you guys cover expenses?

JC: Unfortunately Duncan lost money. I was very afraid that was going to happen and I had no financial reserves whatsoever. I was doing good to cough up $150 / month for rent those days. He lost money on probably half the shows he promoted. I thought he was nuts but admired his tenacity. His philosophy was that if some of these bands didn't play in the area he would have blown a couple hundred dollars flying to Chicago to see them. So he figure he might as well bring them to town, get to meet them, and maybe, just maybe, not have to pay a couple hundred dollars for the privilege.

FJ: Did the band hang out in Lawrence before or after the show date?

JC: They drove in early that afternoon and I assume left the next morning. They stayed at a hotel somewhere in Lawrence. They were a little bummed about how small the stage was. As amazing as the show was visually, that wasn't their full-on stage show. I remember one of them also muttering that this was the first time they ever played in a "pool hall". Duncan joked about this being the honky-tonk stop on their tour. I thought they were being a little snooty about it. I didn't realize how small that space was for them until seeing them in Chicago a few years later on a full stage. They didn't waste any space even on a huge stage.

FJ: What surprised you the most about working with The Residents?

JC: I was surprised they were so mellow about being out of costume. I expected them to all secretive like KISS was. They were the first people I met who were very involved in the San Francisco art scene. I was impressed. They were more genteel than I expected. They looked like they would have been right at home chatting with actors in the green room after some opera performance. I half expected a bunch of skinny junkies and social misfits, which pretty well describes what Einsturzende Neubauten looked like.

FJ: Do any bootleg recordings exist of the concert?

JC: I don't think so. Someone said the sound man recorded the show but I don't think I ever heard it. They were one of the first bands I ever heard live that generated almost all their sound via synths and effects. Snakefinger had a strange, almost synth-like sound to his guitar too. The show sounded amazing.

FJ: What was your favorite moment of the evening they played here?

JC: Finally relaxing during the 2nd set [with] A little pot in the ole' cranium and a beer in my hand. The music and visuals literally made me feel like I was tripping. I was pretty much speechless after the show.

FJ: Besides The Residents concert, what other shows of note did you help bring to Lawrence?

JC: I don't know how noteworthy the individual shows were. A small group of us at KJHK did the bulk of the hustling that created the Outhouse. A lot of those shows were local bands. There was a lot of group effort in the shows, so I certainly can't take all the credit. I did most of the work bringing DRI and Flaming Lips to town. I tried to bring 7 Seconds to the Outhouse but they cancelled at the last minute. The drummer got beat up so bad somewhere that he lost part of his hearing. One of my favorite shows there was the "Scum of the Earth" Halloween party at the Outhouse. It was all local talent: Near Death Experience, Mark Birch and V2 Snider, Battery Idiot, and a theater performance (ex-KJHK staffer) Tom Hoyt was in.

I went to Kansas City the night before that show and brought back a couple of pig heads. They were stage props for a Foetus show Duncan promoted. The drummer of Near Death Experience had some day-glo paint. One thing led to another, and one of the pig heads ended up hung on a wall under a black light. People painted it all night. A lot of people didn't realize it was a real pig's head. I wasn't sure what to do with the head after the show. I wanted to throw it in some farmer's pig pen hoping to trigger some rumors of some very weird cult in town, but couldn't think of any pig farms around. Some guys asked for it. They wrapped it up and gave it to some girl as a Halloween present. They made her promise not to open it until she was in her dorm room.

I don't know how many people remember Jed and Cindy. They were two crazy old school preachers that used to preach on campus. They were so outrageous and comical that I thought they were amazing. I talked Jed into preaching between bands at the Flaming Lips show, which was somewhat amusing to watch. I kind of forgot about that until a couple years later Rolling Stone did a big feature on Jed and Cindy. Jed reminisced that one of the weirder places he ever preached was at a punk rock show in Lawrence Kansas. Jed even remembered that he was on stage after the Exploding Rodents (a local band). I'm sure that was the only time Rolling Stone ever mentioned the Exploding Rodents.

FJ: For the old cronies, give us the John Cheney update: Where you're
living, working, and who you're hanging with now.

JC: I am married (no kids) and live in Phoenix Arizona. I lived in Indiana for about 10 years, and have been here since ‘97. I'm a computer programmer now days. Finally, after 35 or so miscellaneous jobs I found a career I like a lot that actually pays well.

I hang out with a motley collection of artists and musicians here in Phoenix, DJ'ing from time to time. I did get to meet Lydia Lunch and Jim Goad a couple months back by DJ'ing at her art opening here in Phoenix. Lydia was very cool. The same gallery is bringing Mark Mothersbaugh to town next fall. I already volunteered to DJ that night!

I've had a big rambling website since about ‘97. It's The busiest part of the site is the "Origins of band names" page. I list about 700 bands and the etymology of their name. It's always growing because people are always sending emails telling me new ones, or how wrong I am about existing listings.

My new hobby is making music...mostly computer based. If you ever see a cd by "Heathen World" it's me. I'm also working on a soundtrack for a low budget movie a friend is making called Crimes Chapel. It's based in the Chicago goth scene circa late 80's. It's going to be an interesting summer trying to get that together 'cause I don't really know what I'm doing at all.

Friday, May 28, 2004

The Problem With Timelines

I've got a big problem with timelines. They stink. This whole pre-occupation with the line is not good. I remember in grade school, timelines were used incessantly to show the various progressions of different aspects of history. I recall the timeline of invention and the timeline of civilization. Progress doesn't happen in a steady, continuous fashion. That's a fallacy.

Here's an analogy that illustrates why one line doesn't make sense: A class room of elementary students meets at the school house each day. From all over their town, they make their way to the building where they learn to read and write. In an abstract sense, their journey from home to school represents an intersection of lines as each student comes from a different location to meet at the same place. At the end of the day the students leave school and return home. The school day and the lessons the students learned that day become a finite point in time and space. They are an aggregate of an insection of lines. This routine goes on for the entire school year. At the end of the year, A timeline of this achievement might show a straight line connecting the hundreds of individual school days to show a false lineage of the school year and how the students arrived at their present state of literacy. It discounts the true synergy of the achievement. Just as no student stayed in the physical confines of the schoolhouse for the duration of the school year, neither did they in the intellectual sense. The process of learning, discovery, and all kinds of evolution is not a linear progression. So the timeline is restrictive by its very nature. It's one single line. It can't the show the true nature of intellectual intersection that often results in a breakthrough. (This was the premise of the BBC show Connections that chronicled the unlikely alliances, coincidences, and associations that produced advancements in the pre-industrial England).

This is the same notion that Stilgoe nurtures in his work, "Outside Lies Magic". Lines are everywhere in our lives. Lines may be roads, or power wires, or railroad tracks. It's okay to follow them to see where they go or where they came from, but don't be afraid to stray from the right of way.

One of the most profound extensions of this rejection of the timeline came from Steven Jay Gould. Picture this graphic timeline. We've all seen it. It's the march of man through time as he evolves from the monkey. We've seen it in text books, we've seen it in literature both for and against the theory of evolution, and if you've been to Venice beach, you've seen it as a clay model. Gould said the notion of evolution moving from primitive, unintelligent life forms to complex, intelligent life forms is misplaced. He said: "life shows no trend to complexity in the usual sense — only an asymmetrical expansion of diversity". Diversity trumps complexity. I love it.

Part of the reason I've created this blog is to look back. I'm a nostalgic guy and I enjoy remembering the good times. It may be myopic, it may be romantic, but if I can make one connection with another person who remembers the same thing, then it's worth it. The other part will chronicle my personal search for the pearl. The pearl: that elusive McGuffin. The promise of a fulfilling life.

If you give a camera to a child and develop the film they shoot, it resembles the roll Dustin Hoffman's character reveals at the end of "Rainman". There are pictures of manhole covers, bridge girders and unframed shots of landscapes and people. This is life: random snapshots of ephemera that add up to something in the end. Not knowing what it means at the moment it happens is no excuse to dismiss it. Savor the moment, then save it. Through the lens of reflection, someday you may realize what it's all about and don't connect the dots with a straight line.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Remembering the River City Reunion

William Burroughs' legacy lives on in many ways, perhaps least of all with the new "Burroughs Creek". The 17th anniversary of the great River City Reunion is this September. Back in 1987, it was a week-long celebration of beat artists with performances by Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, and John Giorno. Marianne Faithful, Jim Carroll, Timothy Leary, and Husker Du also appeared. This drawing was penned by underground comic artist S. Clay Wilson. I've still got my program from the event and I'll be posting lineups and schedules as we draw closer to the actual anniversary. What do you remember about the River City Reunion?

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

The Battle of Burroughs Creek

It's official. The East Lawrence creek formerly known as the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe tributary is now "Burroughs Creek". Read Richard Gintowt's story at

Monday, May 24, 2004

Witness To The Pink Dots

Kansas City animator Jed Carter saw the Legendary Pink Dots last week at the Hurricane and said this:

The Pink Dots showed up with enough merchandise to cover the entire stage bar at the Hurricane, as usual. And as usual there were about adozen releases that I'd neither seen nor heard of before - bunches of Pink Dots stuff, Tear Garden live albums & vinyl, and solo recordings from each of the band members. The guitarist (Eric?) hadn't yet toured the US with the band, but did really well. Although Edward mentioned jetlag two or three times during the performance (this was the first show on the American tour), they played a fairly long set and came out for an encore. Hoornblower wore a slim-fitting spray painted (or sponge painted?) silver suit. For the encore, he broke out the weird midi/synth horn thing he uses - it sounds like a sax being played through a pitch shifter set to -3 octaves. He also roamed around the bar with a wireless sax for one song. Honestly, I think he did manage to freak a few people out with that. Not many people realize how much fun it could be to sneak up behind someone with an internally-lit saxophone & blast a high note at them. I love seeing these guys. There's really never been anyone else like them, nor will there be. It was a really solid show for the Dots & a nice break from being stuck working in studio all night.

Jed works at MK12, home of 4D softcore sweater porn and ultra love ninja.

No Jeopardy Joy

I'm officially 0-2 in Jeopardy auditions after failing to pass the ten question pre-test at Union Station in Kansas City, Missouri today. I felt pretty good about seven of the questions, but they threw in a British Royalty question, a Shakespeare question, and something about caviar and I was sunk. I don't know the actual score, unless you count "thank you for coming". That's what they said to me after they graded the test. Still, it was fun trying, and if I can make it again sometime, I'll stand in line with my kiddie almanac once more.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Recommending Twin Tone

My CDs arrived from Twin Tone and I'm really happy with them. They even put my name on the label with the order number. I hope more labels adopt this strategy as a way to generate revenue from "out of print" catalog items.

More on EMDR

Here's more information about EMDR, the technique we used to prepare for the TV appearance.

WTTBAM Part Three

I can't imagine why, but some people have better things to do than watch a game show rerun on Friday night. Here's a synopsis of the questions they asked me for those of you who missed the re-telecast on GSN.

Questions four and five were easy and I breezed through them to the first milestone at 1000 dollars. At least now I'm out of bonehead territory. In the months preceding this moment, I played the on-line version of the game at Originally, I tried to save my three lifelines for the harder questions. This strategy failed in practice. More than once I exited before the 32,000 dollar milestone with life lines unused. So my strategy was this: Use the lifelines early if necessary, stay in the game, and make 32K the goal.

Fast forward to question seven where I burned the ask the audience lifeline on a Mr. Rogers question at 4k going for 8k. They wanted to know the order in which he does his little ritual at the beginning of the show. I had a notion, but played it safe and the audience was right, Mr. Rogers does put on his shoes after he puts on his sweater. Commercial break. After the break, and some happy chat with Regis and Dad, we get back to the game. Suddenly, the whole thing goes to hell. The question is about boxers and which of the four recently released an album of Spanish and English ballads. I didn't know it. I had no inkling. Not a clue. I sat there and thought and thought about it. I was going to have to use another life line.

Damn it. This was not a David Mehnert question either (he told me later he didn't know it). No way my wife would know (she didn't). I could call my sociology professor from DeVry (he knew), I could call my ex-boss at Audio Reader (she knew), or I could call my ex-work bud (he didn't know). Guess who I picked? Rob A. didn't have a clue either. As my 30 seconds on the phone with him expired, he apologized and I told him "that's okay". At least I was building some good will with the home viewers as my millionaire gravy train went down the joint. It was agony. I blew the last lifeline. It was the 50/50 and they took away two wrong answers. It was either Oscar De La Hoya or Julio Cesear Chavez. I said the hell with it. It ain't no fun to walk at 8k like the dude from the previous show. I closed my eyes, made a wish and guessed "De La Hoya". I was right! The studio audience went wild.

At 16k going for 32 with no lifelines left, another difficult poser appeared on my display. This time it was about the polling place for the electoral college. Another guess, state capitals over Washington D.C. and I made the 32k milestone. Regis was ecstatic.

At the break, I was visited in situ by the show's creator himself, Mr. Michael Davies. He came down from the booth to tell me that the previous segment was one of the best they'd experienced in a long, long time. It was suspenseful, emotional, and real. I considered it a great honor to meet him and was most grateful for his kind words.

Next up: 32k going for 64. I finally got one in my wheel-house. American military history is a strong area for me. Plus I have a map of the US on my cube wall at work. So when they asked me what state Custer's last stand took place in, I said, "Montana, final answer" without hesitation. Suddenly, I'm sitting on 64 thousand dollars with a big smile on my face.

At 64k going for 125k, It's a British history question about the restoration. Namely, what the hell is it? I bought an almanac to study in the hotel the night before the show. I scanned a history of the British monarchy among one of my topics. At one point, the monarchy was destroyed and a puritan named Cromwell took over. But it didn't last. I said to Regis, "Maybe today is my lucky day," and guessed "British Monarchy". I was right and 125k was mine.

125k going for 250k. It's an Olympic history question about what event wasn't in the ancient version. I didn't have a clue, or a life-line, or 93 thousand dollars to blow. So I recused myself at 125k and walked away. The answer was marathon.

You need 15 correct answers in a row for a million. I could only muster 12 in a row. I have no regrets, except the obvious. I still want to be a millionaire.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

View From the Borderland

This is the path in nearby Mill Creek park around the corner from my house in Overland Park, KS. While this area is set aside from development, much of my neighborhood is rapidly changing as the suburbs expand at a tremendous rate.

Friday, May 21, 2004


Part one of my 'Millionaire' experience aired last night (5/20), but my run in the hot seat continues at 7pm tonight (Friday, May 21st) on GSN. If you're just joining the blog, read the previous entry before this one to get the story in chronological order.

I stood up and shouted when my name blinked on the screen. Regis shook my hand and we got down to business. A producer called my phone friends and put them on stand by. There was time for three questions before the show ended and I got them right. Regis announced the next group of contestants and the lights dimmed. I was the new carry-over contestant at 300 dollars! The next show taped the following day as part of a two-show tape date.

I was blown away by my good fortune and a babbling idiot on the way back to the hotel. I barely remembered the first three questions they asked me. I went to my room and made calls. Producer Brent told me they weren't able to reach my fifth phone-friend, my wife, to give her the news. She didn't know I made it when I called. I played it cool. She was very sympathetic and understanding. It made it all the more sweet when I told her the actual outcome of the final fastest finger question. I cried tears of joy. Later, I dialed my other phone-friends and got them back in the fold for the next show. It taped the next day at 1pm.

Dad and I ate dinner in the restaurant downstairs at the Empire hotel. I was exhausted. We watched TV in the room and I read my almanac. I glanced at an item about the British Monarchy that proved valuable in the hot seat the next day. I could not get to sleep any easier than the first night even though I knew I was in the chair to start the show. I dozed off about 2am.

I met a producer in the lobby at 10am the next morning and we drove over to the ABC studios. This was after the gang of 20 contestants from the two new tapings arrived. I think one of them mentioned a 7am lobby call. Like Andy Aaron, the carry-over contestant from the day before, I joined the fresh group during rehearsal and quietly took a seat with my Dad in the bleachers.

It was cool being the carry-over. I felt a status boost accorded by the other contestants. I was relaxed and jovial but nearly freaked when the green room coffee urn was dry. I usually drink three cups before 11am and there wasn't a drop left. I needed coffee to jump start my brain. Producer Lauren arranged for more. Hooray for Lauren! Later, we ate lunch and I met two other people from Kansas: Jeff Moran, a sex-education/history professor at K.U, and a woman from Manhattan, Kansas. Neither made it past their fast finger trials.

They took the first group to make-up and wardrobe after a meal of swiss steak. As carry-over man, I was all cool because I knew everybody's name and knew the routine. I tried not to be cocky. After all, I was only at 300 dollars and I was sure there were some who secretly hoped for my early exit. One person admitted they groaned as a group when they found out the carry over guy was only at 300 dollars. Who could blame them? I told everybody I would try not to take too long. One gentleman, Joel Reid, was especially cordial during the brief time we hungout back stage. He was a returning contestant like Andy Aaron. He had been on a year earlier but did not get in the hot seat. Today was his second chance.

I waited until the rest were finished to get in the makeup chair and the nice lady did my face again. She told me she was working on the movie "Vanilla Sky" when she wasn't doing Millionaire. Finally, we marched single-file into the studio where the audience was warming up. I was last in line (the eleven spot) and told the guy in front of me (my spot from the day before) that it was a good place to be. It wasn't as lucky for him. He didn't make it. No thanks to me. I took up half the show myself.

They put cordless mics on us and as we stood under the bleachers in relative darkness. I felt grateful and happy and got misty for a moment but I sucked it up. I didn't want to ruin my makeup after all!

They announced the ten contestants before introducing me. I ran out for a curtain call and shook the floor director's hand before I retreated into the tunnel. This crowd was much more energetic. There were more youngsters and they really whooped it up. I stood by. Regis appeared on the other side of the tunnel. He brushed his hair and went over contestant notes with Wendy. Then he turned and said, "Hello Fowler." We were ready to start the show.

Away we went with a handshake and Regis and I walked to center stage and the adventure began. Almost immediately, we stopped down for something and I stared at the logo on the screen in front of me. This was it. A dream come true. It was surreal and ultra-real. Find out how I did. Tune into GSN for my 15 minutes of fame on tonight's rerun of "Who Wants To Be a Millionaire".

Thursday, May 20, 2004

MY WWTBAM Experience

My mother-in-law was in town in September of 2000 and we were watching television one evening. The millionaire show was on and she asked if I ever called the toll-free contestant number. This was about a year after the show debuted and nearly as long since I tried the number. I remembered they asked three trivia questions and recorded your answers but I wasn't good enough to get past those questions.

That night I tried the number again and to my surprise and delight I answered the three questions correctly. It was automated but the recording told me my information was entered in a random drawing for the second round of qualifying. If chosen, they promised to call me between 11am and 2pm the following day. I gave the computer my work phone and ate lunch at my desk the next day but no call came through. I tried once more that night. Again, I answered all three trivia questions right and the next day I got a call from ABC. A real person asked me a lengthy list of eligibility questions. I passed and he gave me the secret toll-free number and PIN for round three. I was very excited. If I answered this series of questions correctly, I might be going to New York as a contestant.

Three days later at the appointed time I phoned in for the next round of questions. Back to the automation system this time with five questions instead of three. I got the first four right but missed the fifth question. Who was born first: Miles Davis or Perry Como? I said Davis but Como was older.

I came so close! I was more determined than ever to get back to the third round. Fast forward to November. Three months later and I was still trying everyday when the phone lines were open. They weren't open all the time. I made it back to round three in October but fared worse, missing two questions. It's the weekend after Thanksgiving and once again I qualified for the third round. (I qualified for round two six times total, with callbacks three times for round three).

The phone game was tricky. Here's how it worked. You must put things in order. A question might be, "put these presidents in order of term, starting with the most recent and working backwards: 1)James Buchanan, 2) Jimmy Carter, 3) Woodrow Wilson, and 4) John Adams. Not only do you have to know the answer, you have to make the corresponding association to the order, rearrange them, and punch it in on your touch tone phone. The answer to our question is 2-3-1-4. You get the idea.

Three days later I took a pad and pen into a conference room, put the phone on speaker, and called the toll free number. Here were the questions. I had 10 seconds to answer each one.

Put these numbered song titles in order beginning with the smallest

1) 1999
2) 99 Red Balloons
3) Eight Days a Week
4) One is the loneliest number

Answer: 4-3-2-1

Put these historical events in the order they occurred, beginning with the earliest

1) Grand Canyon becomes National park
2) The NFL is formed
3) Glenn Miller dies in a plane crash
4) Hostage crisis in Iran

Answer: 1-3-2-4

Put these movie titles in order of release date, beginning with the earliest

1) roadtrip
2) thelma & louise
3) muppets take Manhattan
4) easy rider

Answer: 4-3-2-1

Put these people in order of their year of birth beginning with the most recent

1) Matt Lauer
2) Edward R. Murrow
3) Charles Kuralt
4) Joseph Pulitzer

Answer: 1-3-2-4

Put these islands in order moving east from the Hawaiian islands

1) Canary
2) Solomon
3) Philippines
4) West Indies

Answer: 4-1-3-2

I rocked the house going 5 for 5. The recording said if chosen, I'd be called between 4pm and 7pm that day. I waited at my desk. No call by 5pm. At 6pm, still nothing and I started to worry. At 6:30, I wondered what the heck it took to make it. I figured it wasn't going to happen for me.

I got the call at 6:35pm! It was a producer from the show and after additional eligibility questions, he told me I'd been selected to appear as a finalist on the TV program. I had one week to prepare. I was going to New York to meet Regis and try to win a million dollars! The first task was to pick a companion.

My wife was my first choice but our son Skyler was only 18 months old and not ready for New York travel. My parents would have kept him but my Mom was in Cape Girardeau with my Grandmother. That effectively removed my Grandma, Wife, and Mom. So I tapped my dad.

Pop became my secret weapon in this adventure. He's a psychologist by trade and showed me a video tape of a new technique used by therapists in California called eye movement de-sensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). It's a simple but effective way to drain off excess anxiety in the brain by getting the hemispheres in sync. It's used in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder. It helps people come to terms with traumatic events of the past. It has a secondary use among people in anticipation of events, like a performance, to help quell stage fright.

We decided to use EMDR in anticipation of the millionaire event. I was worried about not being able to use the equipment effectively. They had buttons on a panel to punch in your answers for the fastest finger questions. Dad and I used EMDR to explore that.

The network paid for the airplane tickets, hotel, and transportation, so all I needed to do was arrange for my phone-a-friend. Actually, they let you have five friends on stand-by and pick in real time based on the question at hand. At the top of my list was David Mehnert. David and I went to high school together. He agreed to be available during the taping window and I supplemented my list with my wife, my sociology professor from DeVry, my ex-boss from Audio Reader in Lawrence, and a guy I worked with at my first I.T. job at Waddell and Reed. Everybody was set.

I took three vacation days to cover my trip. Everybody was very excited as word spread at work of my impending appointment with Regis. I overcame long odds to make it this far. Now, I had a one in ten shot at getting to the money questions. I confidently told a co-worker that if I had three chances to get in the hot seat, I would be there.

Pop and I headed to KCI when the big day arrived. The reality sunk in when I picked up the airline tickets at the teminal counter. This was really happening. We arrived at LaGuardia airport at 1:30pm local time. We got an excellent view of lower Manhattan and the World Trade Center towers as we swooped into the area on our TWA jet. John from the car service was waiting for us when we hit the terminal. A native New Yorker, John showed no fear navigating the always-heavy, in-bound traffic. The Empire hotel at west 63rd and Broadway was a small, elegant eleven-story building. The lobby was posh but the room was small and the bathroom even smaller. We settled in and I phoned my millionaire contact in residence, Susan Vescera. A meeting to receive per-diem and get wardrobe approval was scheduled for 5:30pm. In the meantime, I phoned the associate producer at the show to inform him of my arrival. Dad took a nap.

I phoned two KU college friends, Alex Rappoport and Michael Bassin, to see what they were doing for dinner. We agreed to meet at Joe's Shanghai in Chinatown at 7:30pm. Brent phoned me back to conduct a pre-interview. In the event I made it into the hot seat, Regis needed notes about my personal life for the chat segments. Pre-interviews and notes were compiled for all contestants. Afterward, I read the almanac to kill some time before the 5:30 meeting. When I arrived at suite 1124 with show clothes in tow, I saw my competition for the first time. Nine other gentlemen of various shapes and sizes greeted me with varying degrees of good cheer. I adopted a cool demeanor.

All ten of us signed releases for per-diem and were given 150 dollars in cash for our three days in the city. Packets were distributed with the complete rules and other release forms. We were instructed to be in the lobby the following day at 9:45am. A shuttle would transport the contestants and companions to the ABC studios. Dress casually and for warmth, she said. The studio was kept at 65 degrees. We were to bring our approved show clothes along with us. Prior to the start of the show at 4pm, we would go to our dressing room for wardrobe, hair, and makeup. After the meeting, I took Dad back to the suite to get his brown jacket approved. It had a funky sharktooth pattern and I was afraid it might not be up to standards but it was deemed acceptable.

The cab ride to Chinatown took 30 minutes and nearly 13 dollars. We struggled through the theater district and Times Square. The Edison Hotel at Times Square appeared to be going strong. It was famous for being the former home of band leader Ozzie Nelson in the 1930s. When I stayed there on my first visit to the city in 1974, the aura of times square was quite different. There were strip clubs and porn houses everywhere. The Nelsons would have been ashamed. I was happy to see the Howard Johnson's coffee shop where Granny and I ate breakfast 26 years previously. Lilly Tomlin waited tables there in the 1960s. This night she had her name up in lights nearby for her award-winning one-woman show. In fact the lights at Times Square were impressive. Our cabbie swung over to the east side past Grand Central station. A quick right turn at the United Nations building on F.D.R drive and we were on the fast track to the lower east side.

The restaurant in Chinatown was a dim sum place. You sat at huge circular tables for ten people. If your party was less than ten people, they seated strangers with you to fill up the extra space. My friend Alex appeared bearing gifts. He gave me a lucky charm, a pocket-sized laughing Buddha. The laughing Buddha was said to bring financial good luck. I carried this with me the next day. Michael Bassin, his wife and his sister-in-law also joined us. Later that evening back in the hotel, I had trouble falling asleep. Imagine that! I dozed off about 2am.

The ABC staff treated us well. They were nice through every phase of the experience. We spent a full day at the studio. Once inside the complex, we could not take phone calls, go to the bathroom unescorted, or consult reference materials. We were in lock-down to avoid any appearance of cheating.

We ate a continental breakfast in the commissary and heard our carry-over contestant was going for 500K at the start of our show. That was great news! It meant more chances to get in the hot seat for the lot of us. (Show rules guaranteed only one chance).

Our producer chatted with Dad and I again about background material and we went to the studio to rehearse. We practiced the introduction routine and all of us took turns sitting in the hot seat and using life-lines. We also got rapid-fire practice on the equipment with sample fastest-finger questions. I got the best time on the first four questions. Thanks Dad! (and EMDR). But the machinery was not idiot proof. It allowed you to punch in the same response more than once and if you held a key down, it repeated. It had a backspace key and a send key. It was the size of a X-Box controller, so most guys used their thumbs. My friend Chris Shanahan told me the forefinger has a slightly faster response time than the thumb so I adopted his strategy.

We walked back to the green room and waited for makeup call. The makeup woman was very nice. All ten of us shared a dressing room and the mood was cheerful. Our carry-over contestant regaled us with stories of the hot seat and his experience from the previous day.

We filed down to the studio where the crowd waited. They introduced us to applause, Regis appeared moments before the taping started, and away we went! Find out what happened. Tune into "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire", with my episode repeating at 7pm central time tonight (May 20th, 2004) on GSN cable.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

The Brain Bus is Coming

The Jeopardy "Brain Bus" is coming to Kansas City at 4pm, May 24th at Union Station. I'll be there attempting to audition for the program. This will be my second audition for the show.

Back in 1988, I unsuccessfully auditioned for the program. One day Channel five flashed an address for interested parties to send in a postcard for a random drawing to gain admission to an audition. I sent in 25 postcards and got the call. The audition was at the Hyatt Regency hotel and I took time off from my job at Audio Reader in Lawrence to attend.

The format in those days was different than it is now. About 100 of us took a written exam. The format was roughly 50 fill-in-the-blank questions. What kind of animal is the mascot for the U.S. coast guard? (It's a goat). Who was known as the Swedish Nightingale? (Jenny Lind). After the exams were graded they took three people to the next round, a mock game of Jeopardy. The equipment was on display at the front of the room. I didn't make the cut. I don't know what the cutoff line was, or what my grade was on the exam. That information was a secret. They also said there was no quota. They would take as many as qualified. Exactly three people qualified and that's how many you need for a game of Jeopardy. It was a fun experience, except I got a parking ticket.

The new Jeopardy purgative elixir side show promises the first 1000 people will have a chance to take a ten question quiz. If you pass, you may be asked back for another audition the following day. Presumably, if you pass that audition, your information, including a photo, will be added to the contestant pool. Prospective contestants in the pool may be called to the show anytime in the next six months to a year. But it's not a guarantee. Once you're invited to the show, it's up to you to get yourself to Los Angeles for the taping. I'm not complaining. I'll do it. I love trivia. And there's nothing trivial about matching wits with others for a chance at winning tens of thousands of dollars.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Mike McShane, Class of '73

My former drama teacher Mrs. McClatchey told me that tonight's distinguished alumni speaker at the Shawnee Mission North commencement is actor and Roeland Park native Mike McShane, class of '73. You may remember Mike as a regular on the BBC version of "Who's Line is it Anyway", or as FDR, the snowball hurling hot dog salesman from Seinfeld.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Remembering Corinthian Nutter

Today is a big day in Kansas as lawmakers commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Brown Vs. Board of Education decision. Here's a crib sheet on the decision. If you ever get a chance to hear Cheryl Brown Henderson speak, she's fabulous.

The way to Brown V. Board was paved in part by a teacher from Merriam, Ks. Read the story of Corinthian Nutter's fight to integrate the South Park Elementary school in 1947.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Dolgeville, New York, circa 1915

Gender bending in upstate New York. That's my grandmother's Aunt Mae, second row on the left, pouring a drink. Read her diary on line at my other web site.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Recommending Roxy Music

I saw "Lost in Translation" tonight and it reminded me that Roxy Music's "Avalon" is a great make-out record. If you've got a heavy make-out session coming up, get your bad self down to Peaches and load up or fire up the browser and order it from Amazon.

All Sieg Heil Up Front, Oktoberfest in Back

Regarding the Charlie Chaplin mustache, I must ask, "Why couldn't have Hitler had a mullet instead"?

Recommending Stilgoe

John R. Stilgoe is a Harvard professor of Landscape History. He's written a fabulous book about regaining history in everyday places. If you like walking, bicycling, or snapping pictures of ephemeral subjects in the neighborhood, then this book is for you. His theories cut to the core of learning. Here's a quote that sums up the theme:

"Discovering bits and pieces of peculiar, idiosyncratic importance in ordinary metropolitan landscape scrapes away the deep veneer of programmed learning that overlies and smothers the self-directed learning of childhood and adolescence."

The book is called Outside Lies Magic. Once you read it you'll never look at a manhole cover or utility pole quite the same way.

Friday, May 14, 2004

Legendary Pink Dots to Play KC

Former KJHK music man John Cheney told me The Legendary Pink Dots will be playing Kansas City on 5/20 at the Hurricane. See their website for more information about the band.

Twin Tone Burns CDs

Twin Tone's web site offers a peek at their back catalog and in many instances will burn you a CD of 'out of print' albums. I ordered three albums today: Feelies - The Good Earth, Jonathan Richman - Rock'n and Romance, and The Leatherwoods - Topeka Orarotio. Check it out at

Former KJHK staffer Todd Newman makes up half of The Leatherwoods.


No more mass emails. I'm posting here from now on. It's less junk in your mailbox and I'll have a permenant record of my thoughts. The title of the blog is a paraphrase from Kerouac's "On the Road". The narrator is foreshadowing the adventure when he says:
"Somewhere along the line I knew there'd be girls, visions, everything; somewhere along the line the pearl would be handed to me"

So I begin with the end in mind. If I never make another post I wanted to let you know. Keep searching for the pearl. You may already have it.