Archive

Hollywood

This month, Kevin Kline won the Tony for Best Leading Actor in a Play for his performance in Noel Coward’s Present Laughter.

My daughter took me to see Present Laughter at the St. James Theatre in New York over Memorial Day weekend.

 

As some of you know, I was captivated by Coward when I was a young man – read everything there was to read by him and about him. I had plays, records, diaries, biographies, memoirs. You name it.

Coward even inspired me to smoke cigarettes. That was a bad idea. I switched to vape three years ago.

Through July 2, Kline stars in the lead role of Garry Essendine, one that Coward – AKA “The Master” – brought to life in all his self-absorbed glory in 1942.

But I am getting ahead of myself.

I spent an amazing long weekend in New York City with my equally amazing daughter, Taylor. What started out as a casual comment from Taylor – the fact that she had three days off and it would be great if I could finally come to see her – turned into an impromptu trip that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

Rog and Tay NY Skyline

I’m 53, and this was the first time I had ever been there.

There isn’t a good reason why I’d never been. I had entertained romantic thoughts of driving across the country when I was 18, taking jobs along the way and ultimately winding up in the Big Apple. Who didn’t at that age. But I know myself then as I know myself now – not much, mind you – but that trip wasn’t about to happen.

The ensuing decades enabled me to build up a solid repertoire of misconceptions about New York and New Yorkers. You know the stereotypes – like, watch it or you will surely get mugged in Times Square (holdover from the seedy 1970s) – or that New Yorkers are rude, impatient and always in a hurry. I know so many New Yorkers who are not those things at all. Why would it be different on their turf?

Rog Times Square

Billy Joel bragging about walking through Bedford-Stuyvesant alone in “You May Be Right” kind of worried me because that’s exactly where my daughter lives, although she doesn’t have a motorcycle and probably wouldn’t ride it in the rain if she did.

My imagination couldn’t quite make out what “The City” would really be like – the sights and sounds glamorized in movies and television – and the music – the litany of bright lights, big city stuff – the hustle and bustle – the “if-I-can-make-it-there-I’ll-make-it-anywhere,” mantra.

And the other New York, New York (On the Town) line, “The People ride in a hole in the ground,” made me wonder what the subways were all about.

Somehow, riding the London Underground and for that matter, the Los Angeles subway (Metro Red Line) made me think the subway experience in New York couldn’t be much different. How about the touring companies performing the myriad Broadway shows I caught at the now-defunct Shubert Theatre or the Music Center, or the Pantages Theatre in L.A. – could the Broadway experience really be much different?

Roger NY Library

And could a simple slice of pizza really be any better there?

And how was everything connected – the boroughs, the layout? The reality had to be different from my imagined version.

The thought of setting foot where the unspeakable tragedy of 911 happened was also a bit surreal, chilling, and profoundly sad.

 

And, finally, I was about to take it all in.

From the moment I got off the plane at JFK, I could feel the energy.

Over the next three days, Taylor and I relied on the trains and walked our asses of – and I am surprised at the sheer amount of ground we covered. Taylor gave me truly immersive experience, and with the exception of an excellent leisurely breakfast at place where she used to work, an outstanding French-American restaurant and café in Brooklyn called French Louie (where she reconnected with her friends and coworkers and I could feel the love), we relied on lighter, faster fare in the form of tuna melts from a bodega on her block in Bed-Stuy, a couple of slices of pizza on her block, bagels and an interesting culinary oddity from a place called Sushirrito – and more.

I am still a bit overwhelmed by the trip – and I wanted to get something down in this blog to get started, but I think this deserves multiple posts.

I think it’s fair to say that I will never be quite the same after this trip – and now, in the limited time I was there – I have been there, done that.

But I am struck with how well my daughter is doing up there, putting that College of Charleston communication degree to work, currently at an awesome advertising agency called SpotCo – specializing in theatre, and more specifically the branding of many leading productions.

Taylor has really gotten to know the lay of the land, has awesome roommates, and doesn’t appear to take any shit from anyone.

Thanks for the advice, kid – but I can’t help saying hello to strangers.

I will always remember our long weekend in “The City,” but spending time with Taylor was priceless!

roger-with-casey-king-and-danny-trejo

(With Casey King and Danny Trejo. Photo: Gene Ho)

On Sunday, February 12, The Sun News published my profile of professor Casey King, founder of the Horry-Georgetown Technical College Addiction and Recovery Lecture Series, which kicked off last Thursday and will continue for three more weekly installments.

King teaches physics at both HGTC and Coastal Carolina University, and has been organizing this series since 2008. He will be the first to tell you that the series has very little to do with him and that it has taken on a life of its own.

I am grateful to King for his candor during the process of putting together the story, as well as for contributions from Dr. Victor Archambeau, local chapter chairman of Faces and Voices of Recovery – or FAVOR – as well as the heartbreaking input from a young man by the name of Dylan Parker, an HGTC student who lost his brother to the heroin epidemic in 2013 – and for a couple of to-the-point quotes from actor Danny Trejo.

Danny Trejo? “Machete?”

Yup.

Trejo was the series headliner, slated to kick off the event on Thursday night at the Burroughs & Chapin Auditorium on HGTC’s Conway campus.

I was bummed out that I was not going to be able to attend that event because of a weekly gig I play at House of Blues with my brother – but as fate would have it, I got a message from King. It turns out that Trejo was also set to speak in a classroom setting at HGTC’s Myrtle Beach campus Thursday morning, and King offered to save me a seat.

roger-and-trejo

(Photo: Gene Ho)

Thankful to have been included, it did my heart good to hear Trejo speak. For an idea of what he was talking about, go here.

And here is my Sun News article:

‘Machete’ star to make appearance as HGTC’s Addiction and Recovery Lecture series headliner

On Thursday, February 16, actor Danny Trejo will kick off the 10th annual Addiction and Recovery Lecture Series at Horry-Georgetown Technical College, bringing his story of personal transformation to the Grand Strand.

Trejo’s iconic rugged demeanor has served him well over the years, and he has appeared in dozens of films from “Desperado,” “From Dusk till Dawn” and “Con Air” to the “Spy Kids” trilogy, “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy” and of course “Machete” and “Machete Kills.”

Trejo, now 72, struggled with addiction early on and has been sober for a jaw-dropping 48 years.

The HGTC Addiction and Recovery Lecture Series has been going strong since 2008, bringing with it a veritable Who’s Who of well-known people who have struggled with addiction: Louis Gossett, Jr., Meredith Baxter, Steve Ford [son of former President Gerald Ford and Betty Ford], three stars of A&E’s “Intervention” and more.

The series continues for three consecutive Thursdays following Trejo’s event and will include featured speakers and community panel events.

Longtime HGTC physics and natural sciences professor Casey King is the organizer and the de facto face of the series, even though he will be the first to tell you that it has a life of its own.

King has been living and teaching on the Grand Strand for more than 20 years, following a stint in nuclear energy. After finishing graduate school at the University of Virginia, his first job was as a radiation specialist for the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission [NRC] in Chicago.

“That lasted about a year, and I last worked in a nuclear power plant. I was there for about four years until about 1994,” he said.

He said he was miserable.

“I worked in the control room and it was either incredibly boring or intensely manic,” he said. “The job was bipolar.”

King made the switch to academia when a job came open at Coker College in Hartsville and he was accepted to teach.

He went on to other teaching jobs at Francis Marion University and Florence-Darlington Technical College before transferring to HGTC in 1996. He also began teaching math and physics at Coastal Carolina University in 2003.

“It was like a breath of fresh air, and incredibly refreshing to begin to teach. That’s why I have been in the teaching field for 23 years. I love it, and look forward every day to going to work,” he said.

King has four adult children, three of which he raised as a single parent. He has been in a relationship with partner Jennifer Neafsey for nearly eight years.

King also struggled with addiction. He said he thought he had a lot of people fooled along the way, and that an active addict by his very nature has a way of covering things up.

“When my career with substance [abuse] appeared to be at its end, I knew I had no other choice but to seek some kind of help. It had been suggested to me by some friends that 12-Step programs worked – and I knew enough to do something before it was too late,” he said.

King got sober in 2005.

At that time, he was involved in organizing a general series of lectures on assorted topics at HGTC, but this changed in 2008.

“After we had done this for a few years, my partner dropped out and it was just me. I chose to include the topic of addiction and recovery because It because it was near and dear to my heart,” he said. “It was something that I had decades of experience with.”

King knew plenty of people in recovery and was already in the position to reserve the auditorium.

“I don’t think I have any special ability, but it just seemed like I was in the right place at the right time to do this lecture series.”

But he had no funds to work with, and relied for the first few years on local counselors and doctors to speak – sometimes more than once.

Eventually, HGTC got behind the series with the funding he needed to ramp things up.

The series has always been free and open to the public.

“There has never been a charge for any of this over 10 years. No money has ever been involved from the attendees,” he said.

The first Hollywood-connected speaker came in the form of screenwriter William G. Borchert, who lived in Little River at the time and wrote the 1989 film, “My Name Is Bill W.,” based on the true story of the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous and starring James Woods and James Garner.

King’s networking efforts paid off next when he secured cast members from A&E’s “Intervention” for speaking slots in the lecture series – and his relationship with them has grown into a valuable resource to the point where he calls them whenever he needs to.

“There are people that come to me for interventions, and I will farm it out to one of them. It’s networking at its best,” he said.

Locals might remember the billboard on U.S. 501 touting the arrival of academy award winner Louis Gossett, Jr. last year. His speaking engagement was so full that some attendees had to use an overflow area.

This is shaping up to be the same scenario with Trejo.

“We’re making plans to accommodate a large crowd. There will be closed-circuit television in five rooms,” said King.

King just got word that a film crew will be on hand to grab footage from this event for a Trejo biopic currently in production.

“I want people to see that there are multiple paths to recovery – and when Danny Trejo comes, he will tell his story and how he did it. On the second night [February 23], there will be six to eight students – all local and in recovery – who are going to tell you their stories.”

On Thursday, March 2, William C. Moyers will tell his story.

Moyers is VP of public affairs for community relations for the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and son of journalist Bill Moyers. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller, “Broken: My Story of Addiction and Redemption.”

The final installment of the Addiction and Recovery Lecture Series on March 9 is sponsored by the local advocacy group Faces and Voices of Recovery – or FAVOR – and will include the showing of a film called “Generation Found,” which focuses on youth addiction and recovery in Houston.

Local FAVOR chapter chairman Dr. Victor Archambeau said he met King in more than three years ago, when FAVOR was being formed on the Grand Strand. The group has been involved with the lecture series since then.

“Casey joined FAVOR and asked how we could help,” he said. “He offered to extend the conference to four nights and let us have the fourth night for a program of our choosing.”

Archambeau is a family practitioner who said he has been in recovery for 23 years.

In addition to sponsoring the showing of “Generation Found,” Archambeau said FAVOR members will help with the dinner service for all four nights.

archambeau-and-shirley

(FAVOR Chairman Dr. Victor Archambeau and FAVOR Secretary Susan Shirley. Photo: Matt Silfer for The Sun News]

King’s efforts in the name of recovery are not lost on Archambeau.

“Casey is passionate about what he does and really wants others to get the message about recovery. This program is a labor of love for him and requires a huge commitment of time and effort to make it work,” he said.

HGTC student Dylan Parker is not in recovery, but he will be telling his story on February 23.

Parker lost his brother to a heroin overdose in 2013, when Parker was 15.

“My brother Clay was someone I always looked up to dearly and loved,” he said. “He was my best friend, and we connected on so many things that we were almost twins. I don’t remember exactly when Clay first admitted his addiction. After his death, a lot of things went blurry on me.”

Parker said his brother’s problem started with the abuse of pills – first taking them orally and then injecting them – ultimately moving on to heroin and the black tar that ended his life.

“Clay’s death showed me that drugs are a disease,” he said. “It’s one that people don’t want to realize or acknowledge. I was once one of those people. Drugs not only took my brother. They’ve taken away a part of my mom and dad. When Clay passed away I didn’t want to keep quiet about his addiction. I wanted people to know that drugs are a real problem and they show no discrimination.”

Parker said his brother’s death gave him the ability to share this story with The Sun News and to speak at the lecture series.

“If this could help or save someone then by all means I know my brother is proud of me. It’s time to speak up and help those that are in need,” he said.

Although King is the founder and organizer of the lecture series, he strives to keep himself out of the picture as much as possible.

“I am not an expert. I am a physics professor and just happen to be in recovery. It’s not about me. It’s about the series,” he said.

In a statement, Trejo told The Sun News that he has never been to Myrtle Beach before.

The focus of his message is to the point:

“Never give up on someone.,” he said.

And for those thinking about getting help, Trejo had this to say:

“There is a light at the end of the tunnel and it is not a train.”

For more information about the HGTC Addiction and Recovery Lecture Series, email Casey King at casey.king@hgtc.edu or call 843-477-2154.

laurel-and-hardy-with-yale-brothers

In early September, a message appeared on The Yale Brothers’ Facebook page from a guy named Roger Robinson in the UK. He was very complimentary about our music, but the crux of the matter was that he was doing research on the original Yale Brothers for a magazine he publishes in England called The Perry Winkle, which is devoted to all things Laurel & Hardy.

He was aware that my Dad and “Uncle” Roger had performed with Laurel and Hardy – presumably at the Glasgow Empire in 1947, and had stumbled across an old black and white photograph of the four of them together while visiting the Laurel and Hardy Museum in Ulverston.

This intrigued us, and I was happy to help with any information I could provide – and my brother Chris felt the same way.

Robinson heads up Saps at Sea, a chapter of Sons of the Desert/The International Laurel & Hardy Society. Interestingly enough, there is a Saps at Sea/Sons of the Desert chapter or oasis/tent here in Myrtle Beach. Full circle.

I am so grateful to Robinson for reaching out to us about this because this is part of the legacy left by my dad, Carl Yale. He meant so much to us.

Here is the finished product.

perry-winkle1perry-winkle-2

Thanks again, Roger Robinson – happy to count you a friend!