Friday, April 27, 2012


A Funny Thing Happened To Me 
On The Way To Senior Citizenhood
This post marks a major milestone for me, one of those moments in life that signifies a dramatic change in what one does as one's main passion and purpose. And it's been a long time coming, a very long time. Much of the reason for this is that my life has been filled with many adventures and creative opportunities. I started out in radio as a teenager, worked my way up to a news position in the number one market, New York City, then decided to start writing books and doing workshops, seminars, and lectures. In addition to traveling around the world to do these presentations, I was very involved for seven years in a nonprofit education and leadership support organization called The Inside Edge, in Beverly Hills and Orange County, California--serving on the board with Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Louise Hay, Barbara DeAngelis, Norman Cousins, and other new thought leaders. Through all of this, some of my most enriching and fulfilling moments were when I would say something and get a response of laughter from my audience.

I then got waylaid, thanks to having my brains a bit scrambled by a nutritional product with inordinate amounts of high potency ephedra. At a time it was thought to be harmless and was legal, I took it three times a day for five years. This led to a 12 year prison sentence following a hairbrained scheme to carjack a motorhome. I used those years to do a huge amount of meditating, reflecting, creating, and looking at the humor in my experience. I earned some extra cash by writing cartoon gags for top magazine cartoonists, appearing in PARADE, Wall Street Journal, Barron's, and the Harvard Business Review. 

     Since my release, I have started this blog and my other prosperity blog, inspired by my bestselling book, Moneylove. I have also created a monthly prosperity audio club with subscribers around the world, and am working on my prison memoir and a one man show based on my prison years. And now for something completely different, or maybe not. My life does seem to be filled with lots of synergy, and honing my sense of humor for my cartoon gags, and my one man show, I decided to go back to something I have wanted to do for forty years--stand-up comedy. I actually wrote material for several successful comedians, and even tried out my own material while working at NBC in New York at the only comedy club in the world at that time, The Improvisation. I got laughs, but I was content in my broadcasting career, making good money, and didn't have that burning ambition I would have needed to make comedy a full time profession in those days. 

    So that brings us to April, 2012. An actor friend, Joel Canon, told me about a free introductory class at the San Francisco Comedy College. He would have loved to take it, but had plans to be out of town, so I checked it out. I had been thinking of taking some stand-up classes for some time, and this got me to take that first step. The second step was to sign up for a five week class, and also commit to performing stand-up at the famed Purple Onion club. 

This is not just a whim or hobby for me, but an exploration of what could be a full time career move. If I am good enough and encouraged enough, I am willing to travel the country from comedy club to comedy club and perform stand-up. I have no end goal in mind, I am doing it to do it. I don't expect to end up with my own sitcom, or talk show, or headlining in Vegas--though I'm open to any of those happening. I am planning to have a lot of fun, to learn a lot, and to quickly get to a place where I answer the question, "What do you do?" with "I'm a stand-up comedian."


Friday, April 20, 2012


On the left of the above Red Lobster Lobsterfest Maine Lobster and Shrimp Trio is their Shrimp and Lobster Mac 'N' Cheese, a new dish that I think is one of the tastiest casseroles of all time. I consider one of my major wins to be the fact that my suggestion, when filling out their online survey, that they offer it as a permanent menu item, has happened, and it is now an official ongoing side dish by itself. The pleasure this item gives me, with its white cheddar and bacon sauce, topped with parmesan crumbs, goes beyond any culinary essence into that strange and wonderful area of comfort food.

This is interesting to me because I never had Mac 'N' Cheese as a child, it was not on my mother's list of edible family meals--my father was strictly a meat and potatoes man. And in all the thousands of restaurant meals I've enjoyed, this item on the Lobsterfest menu was the first time I ever saw the traditional favorite listed with or without the luxury of shrimp and lobster.

So imagine my surprise when my good friend, theatre historian and author, Bonnie Weiss, who knows more about good places to eat in San Francisco than anyone I can think of, recommended we eat before a show last night at a place called Grub. Lo and behold, when I checked its website and read some reviews, I found that a favorite feature was their Mac 'N' Cheese bar. I would argue with that designation if it served any purpose, as it is not a bar in the sense that you go up and select your choices. Oh, there are choices, lots of them. They are called "throw ins" and include the following:

They charge $3 for the steak or lobster, but just $1 each for all the others. I had caramelized onions, spanish chorizo, and crispy pancetta, which I had never heard of before. I looked it up and found it to be a pork belly dish often called "Italian bacon", and what cinched it for me was the "crispy" part and the fact that it is cured with salt and spices such as nutmeg and fennel, then dried for a few months. Frankly, the final result was not as delicious as the Red Lobster version, nor as crunchy, but still an exceptional meal, and served in a large bowl so that I've saved enough of it for a substantial lunch after I finish writing this post. I think, however, I will add one of my favorite childhood comfort foods--Hebrew National Beef Salami--plus some chopped celery and walnuts. 

I suppose what my point is, other than my loving to discuss foods and flavors that I enjoy, is that some foods are comfort foods just because comfort is an inherent quality they have, not based on childhood nostalgia at all. My very first exposure to any version of Mac 'N' Cheese was as an adult in the form of Stouffers Noodles Romanoff. I would put the frozen entree in the oven and bake it until it was extra crispy and crunchy. I can still remember the taste of it and miss it a lot. I went online and found that I was not the only one mourning its disappearance. Many people also bemoan the loss of a do-it-yourself Noodles Romanoff from Betty Crocker. There are recipes galore for duplicating these treats, but that's not nearly the same to me. 

Though considered a very American dish, macaroni and cheese casseroles have a long history around the world. It shows up in a 14th Century English cookbook, and Thomas Jefferson is the first American known to have featured it on a menu for a state dinner. He imported both the pasta and the parmesan cheese. 

Though I have decried the loss of some favorite foods, such as Stouffers Noodles Romanoff, and the fact that fast food chains have replaced many family restaurants across the nation, there are some very silver linings in our national food experience. Lots of diversity in our ethnic choices, lots of experimentation unheard of even a decade ago, such as the kinky molecular gastronomy combining the culinary and science lab arts. And who would have thought of adding all those Throw-ins listed above to simple Mac 'N' Cheese? 

The only challenge left is to figure out how many more trips to Grub it will take before I get to sample all the Throw-ins. What a great time to be alive and hungry!

It is indeed an abundant world we live in. More on that on my prosperity blog at

Friday, April 13, 2012


The above photo shows the great Woody Allen discussing a scene with the stars of one of the segments in his newest film, TO ROME WITH LOVE. Playing a married couple are Academy Award winner Roberto Benigni and my dear friend, Monica Nappo, a genuine rising star whom I'm sure we'll now be seeing a lot more of. Benigni, of course, won Best Actor in 1999 for LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL, though he's remembered more for climbing over the seats at the ceremony to accept the Best Foreign Language Film award as the director.
Interestingly, there was some criticism at the time about treating the Holocaust in a humorous way.

And now, with a showing in Rome, some Italian journalists are complaining that these hard economic times, with austerity hitting Italy in a big way, are no time for feel good movies. This is pretty silly, as historically the bleakest times have produced the most lighthearted, uplifting, happy-go-lucky entertainment. The greatest period for this in movies was the 1930s, during the Great Depression. There were dozens of great comedies, musicals, even the birth of the cartoonish American gangster films like Scarface and Little Caesar to take peoples' minds off the hard times. Many of the films were about ordinary working class men and women falling in love with very rich women and men. Frank Capra got to shine with such classics as IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT, MR. DEEDS GOES TO TOWN, YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU, and MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON. Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland and Shirley Temple danced and sang their way into hearts around the world.
Monica Nappo first contacted me via my, and, serendipitously, I had just enjoyed watching her in a delightful Italian film on Netflix, AGATA AND THE STORM. I was probably almost as excited as she was when she got the role in Woody Allen's film, as I have seen everything he's ever done, and even enjoy his not-so-great efforts as masterpieces of vivid and quirky perspectives on love and life. With her positive attitude about life, her commitment to growth and adventurous creative spirit, I can hardly wait to see my friend when the film opens in the U.S. in June.

As I read about the Italian doom and gloomsters who decry happy films during hard times, I was thinking of a very conservative friend who keeps sending me reports of the impending financial collapse of Europe, and how it will destroy the American economy. Right wing blogs particularly seem to take great pleasure in predicting catastrophe. I've always said that the best way to triumph over negative input and negative people is to drown them out with positive people and positive messages. Monica and Roberto and Woody can certainly help with that, and I'll do my part by recommending TO ROME WITH LOVE to everyone I can.

Thursday, April 5, 2012


So what will Mitt Romney do after he loses his final bid to be president in November? Here’s my thought: President Obama should make one of his first appointments at the beginning of his second term by naming Romney as head of his Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, replacing Jeffrey Immelt, the Republican CEO of General Electric.

This would be a job much more suited to Romney’s proven skills than Commander-In-Chief. He has already demonstrated his mastery as a fixer and turnaround maestro at the Utah Olympics and at Bain Capital. Wall Street experts seem to think his results at Bain beat those of any other major venture capital firm. Sure, he didn’t give as much thought to saving jobs as he did to the bottom line for shareholders, but that was his assignment, the goal of any venture capitalist. As the Jobs Czar, Obama can keep a tight leash on Romney’s natural inclination to fire the entire country.

While the appointment of Immelt was designed to show that Obama was friendly to the business community, Romney not only would be more skillful, but would exemplify the post-partisanship Obama ran on in 2008. It might begin a process of major healing between Democrats and Republicans. And Romney would not have to worry about his Etch-A-Sketch reversals on such issues as abortion, gay marriage, and the healthcare mandate. He would never need to comment on those conservative taboos again. And let’s face it, after losing the presidency and possibly taking the Republican House down with him, there would no longer be a place for Mitt Romney in the Republican Party. This is a guy who likes to produce results, and this would be a great chance, perhaps the only one for him to redeem his legacy.

It would also make Obama look bold and courageous. Yes, both men would have to eat a bit of humble pie. But Romney has already demonstrated he can go with the flow in switching positions. Obama might have a bit more difficulty. Like George W. Bush, he has seemed resistant to admitting that he sometimes makes mistakes, and he would have to admit that he could have done a better job with the economic recovery.


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