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Pete Barbutti interview, September 24, 2008: transcript


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Pete Barbutti (also spelled Barbuti) played the accordion, the piano, and the trumpet. He was also a comedian and appeared numerous times on the Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson and toured with Nat King Cole. He and his family have lived in Las Vegas since 1960

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Barbutti, Pete Interview, 2008 September 24. OH-02769. [Transcript]. Oral History Research Center, Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.


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An Interview with Pete Barbutti An Oral History Conducted by Lisa Gioia-Acres All That Jazz Oral History Project Oral History Research Center at UNLV University Libraries University of Nevada Las Vegas ©All That Jazz Oral History Project University of Nevada Las Vegas, 2008 Produced by: The Oral History Research Center at UNLV — University Libraries Director: Claytee D. White Editors: Barbara Tabach Transcribers: Kristin Hicks Interviewers and Project Assistants: Lisa Gioia-Acres and Claytee D. White The recorded interview and transcript have been made possible through the generosity of Harold L. Boyer Charitable Foundation. The Oral History Research Center enables students and staff to work together with community members to generate this selection of first-person narratives. The participants in this project thank University of Nevada Las Vegas for the support given that allowed an idea the opportunity to flourish. 1 he transcript received minimal editing that includes the elimination of fragments, false starts, and repetitions in order to enhance the reader's understanding of the material. All measures have been taken to preserve the style and language of the narrator. In several cases photographic sources accompany the individual interviews. The following interview is part of a series of interviews conducted under the auspices of the ^4// That Jazz Oral History Project. Claytee D. White Director, Oral History Research Center University Libraries University Nevada Las Vegas iii Table of Contents Preface and Photo Interview Index iv 1- 34 35-36 iv Preface Pete Barbutti (also spelled Barbuti) was born in 1934 in Scranton. Pennsylvania. As a child he was expected to learn an musical instrument. Pete's musical talents were honed on the accordion and later the piano and trumpet. He had a gift for music and for comedy. This combination would lead to a career in both and a list of professional and personal friends that spanned an era from the 1970s to the 1990s. Among the many stories shared in this interview is one of his more famous routines about "Cordeen School". He also talks about his numerous appearances on the Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and remembrances of touring with Nat King Cole. Pete and his wife Mary Ann moved to Las Vegas in 1960. They raised their children here and made it their home. Today is September 24th, 2008. This is Lisa Julia-Acres. I'm here with Pete Barbutti to do an oral history interview for the university archives, the oral history project for All That Jazz. Hi, Pete. How are you? I'm fine, Lisa. Thank you. Pete, can you spell your last name for me? B-A-R-B-U-T-T-I. However, legally it's B-A-R-B-U-T-I. I'll just give you a brief history of that. Yes, I'd like to know that. It s legally spelled with one T. That's the way my family spelled it. When I started doing the Steve Allen Show in 1962,1 think it was, the videographer who put the name across the bottom (of the screen) he spelled it with two T's. That wasn't visible on the monitor. So I never knew about it and 1 never saw the show because I was working at night when the shows played. I was in Seattle at the time. So it was like two or three months later. I had done the show a bunch of times. Two or three months later somebody noticed it and told me about it. When I told the agency I was with to correct it, they said it's too late; you better use the second T in there. So it's always been that way. I keep hoping Internal Revenue will forget about me and say, oh, he doesn't exist. Pete, what instrument did you play? I started on the accordion as did everybody I grew up (with) in a small town in Pennsylvania Scranton, a coal-mining town. Everybody of the first- and second-generation immigrants, all their children played a musical instrument. It it was a girl, you got piano or violin. If it was a boy, you got accordion or guitar. Because, I guess, that was a part of the cultural heritage of Europe; everybody is involved in the arts over there. So we all played. In my family I played the accordion, my cousin played the accordion and my sisters took piano lessons. That was just the way it was done. And what is your specialty now? Well, I went from the accordion when I got into high school. Oddly enough, I had to take an elective subject. And I was already working when I was in the seventh and eighth grade. I was working weddings back in Pennsylvania playing the accordion. I played polkas and mostly Polish, Hungarian, Lithuanian and those types of weddings because they last like for two days. I'm not 1 sure there's a bride or groom involved. It's just a big party. So you go in the morning to the bride's home and you play a traditional Polish wedding march when she comes down the stairs for the first time and the family sees her in her wedding dress. Then you're whisked to the church. You play the same song when she gets out of the car and goes into the church. Then you sit in the back of the church during mass. When that's over you play when she comes out. Then you go to the family's house for breakfast and you play all during the breakfast. Then you go home and they go have pictures taken. And you show up at the reception at night with the rest of your band and you play until whatever, one o'clock in the morning. How fascinating. Yeah. And I was probably making more money than my father was when I was in sixth and seventh grade because everybody coming to the wedding when you play as they play as they walk into the reception the accordion player and the bass player stand by the front door and you play as they come in and they put a dollar in a beer tray. Or sometimes they put it in the F-Hole of the bass. They'd stick it in there. Then you'd have to go home and the bass would be up on two chairs while you fished the money out or something. But you could make 60 or 70 dollars for one day. Well, before we get too far ahead, what year were you born? Thirty-four. 1934. And what town again? Scranton, Pennsylvania. So why don't you talk a little bit about your childhood. Tell me your mom and dad's names. My mom's name is Mary. Her maiden name is Kating. She was Irish. And my father was the first-born in the country of - my grandfather came from a little village outside Naples. My grandfather was a contractor, small contractor—sidewalks, basements, things like that. He did a couple of small bridges in Scranton, but never big construction work. He was a magnificent man. His name was Rocco, which is my middle name. They came to New York first and then migrated to Scranton because there was work there. They came in through Ellis Island, of course. And he bought an old defunct mansion. It was called the Tripp mansion, T-R-I-P-P. Tripp was the original settler in Scranton, which was originally 2 called Slocum Hollow. I was actually born in the house. When my parents moved in, the house was already 200 years old. And that was in the 1920s or something. How was your grandpa able to afford it? Well, it was derelict. And so he bought it. Since he knew how to do all that work -- plumbing and sidewalks and maintenance and everything — he and his sons, who were young at the time, they rebuilt the whole place. And they partitioned it off and it was like a kibbutz. All of the families moved into one house. We each had an apartment. There were like maybe six families in the main house. And they put in bathrooms; of course, indoor plumbing—it didn't have all that. And they put in central heat radiators because it had a fireplace. It was a mansion with like 32 rooms or something and had a fireplace in every room. The kitchens were enormous. So he redid everything, redid all the wiring and put plumbing in and central heat. And in the back there were two houses that were originally slaves' quarters when the house was built. So two uncles and aunts, two of his children, moved back there. And we had our own vineyard and our own orchard. How many acres? I'm guessing but it was probably six or seven acres. But it was right in the city. So it had big stone lions on the front. The guy who owned it was one of the wealthiest. He had dozens of slaves and plantations. What a great history. Yes, my grandfather was an amazing man. He was the patron of the family. And there was never any -- he was a very smart man. What he did is when there was any kind of an argument he sided with the in-law rather than his own children because he knew he was close to his own children. I mean all of the in-laws just adored him. He was called pop to everybody. He was unbelievably good to the children. He put in a swimming pool. This is in the 1930s. He built a swimming pool. It didn't have filtration or anything. So he put a couple of hoses in it on a Saturday morning and filled it up with water. And we'd swim all day Saturday and Sunday. Then by Monday he'd have to drain it because the water was filthy. But we had a swimming pool. I mean nobody had a swimming pool in those days. How long did he live? I was young when he died. I was not even in my teens. I was maybe eight or nine years old. 3 But you got to know him? Yes, oh, yes. He was an incredible guy. Every Sunday we had dinner together in the basement, which was very large because this was like I say a mansion. We had dinner in the basement. There was a long table that he had built. My mother was in charge of making the sauce for the spaghetti, even though she was the Irish member. Another family baked all the breads and another family roasted the chickens. Then another family did this. And, of course, he made his own wine every year. He made like four 50-gallon barrels of wine. So they'd start cooking when it was still dark. We'd go to church and come home and then we'd have a little taste of something. About one o'clock in the afternoon we'd start eating. We'd eat for about two and a half, three hours. Everything homemade. After that there was always fresh fruit on the table—from fig trees and apples trees and cherry trees. Then they'd turn on the opera and we'd just lay around and sort of vegetate. The men would play cards and drink anisette or whatever. But it was an incredible way to grow up that way, because all of my cousins, you know, a dozen of them, were all in the same house and all of my aunts and uncles. We had incredible supervision. I mean there was nothing you could do that some aunt or uncle didn't see you and fink on you to your parents. What would happen to you if you would get in trouble? Well, you'd get hit usually by my mother, not my father. But they were pretty good. But it was a wonderful way to grow up. The camaraderie was unbelievable. We really had a very, very special childhood. How many brothers and sisters did your dad — I had two sisters. And my grandma's family on my father's side there were --1 think there were three boys and three girls. My father died kind of young because he was a heavy juicer and smoker. So he died sort of young. But all of the aunts lived to their late 90s. They're all gone now. What was your dad's occupation? He was just a laborer. He worked digging ditches. Then he worked in a dry cleaning plant washing and putting the clothes in the different machines and so forth. Did mom work outside the home? She worked at the cleaners, too, doing things like checking in clothes. It was not a retail cleaners. 4 The wholesalers would come to this. My grandfather sold a piece of the land next door and a guy built a small cleaning plant there. So they just walked next door to work. Is the Tripp mansion still in the family? It's still there. It's not in the family. It was purchased by the historical society. And it's rebuilt. However, it's considerably smaller because when my grandfather bought it what he did is there was a massive porch, probably ten to 12 feet wide, around three sides of it. He closed that in and made additional rooms and everything. So they took all that out. And they took one of the additions off in the back. It's in its original form now. Other than the porch? Yes, and it's all hardwood floors. It's a magnificent building. Marble fireplaces. So how did music play into your life? Well, when I was I think nine, my parents got me accordion and sent me for lessons to a classical teacher, Professor Sabastianelli. You had to learn solfeggio first; you know, where you don't play your instrument for months. You just sing the notes. It was do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-do. And you do two beats on your leg and two beats on your chest, four beats to a measure. And you sing do-re-mi-fa ~ you know, you'd do that to keep time for months. And then you finally got to use your instrument and do it. That would teach you sight-reading. So there's no question you would have to learn an instrument? Yes. Everybody in the family got an instrument. The girls hated to play piano. They used to be livid with me because their teacher would come and they'd spend an hour hacking through this lessons, you know, the Black Hawk Waltz" or some ridiculous beginner piece. And they would be hacking through it. The teacher would leave and I'd run in and play it because I had fairly good ears. I'd run in and play it. And they'd smack me and chase me out of there. I started on the accordion. And when I got into high school I had just about lost interest. I was into sports. When I got into high school I had to take an elective. So I took band. And ran into one of the people who changed my life, my band teacher Gene Morse. What high school were you at? Scranton Tech. It was a technical arts school. Our whole family went there because nobody was considered college material. So we all went to a technical arts school. Girls learned home ec. 5 Boys learned shop. And I'm glad actually I went because you got welding, electrical, woodworking, mechanical engineering and machine shop. One or two semesters of each. So you learned plumbing and wiring; just enough to do it to keep your house in order. But in the band room, all the freshmen went in for the trials. And you tried out. You played a trumpet and you played a trombone. It's real cursory just to see if you have any talent. He asked me to play the drums and showed me how to hold the sticks. And he said, okay, play this. And whatever he played I could imitate perfectly. So he said you're a natural drummer. So he put me on percussion. By the end of my freshman year I was with the advanced band, the senior band. And in my sophomore year I was with the Philharmonic playing timpani and that. And I played with every band in town. We had a DeMolay band, American Legion band, University of Scranton band. My whole life was playing with the bands. What age were you when you knew this was going to be your occupation? I think probably 13 or 14 maybe. Maybe 14. How about your siblings? You just have two brothers? (And) two sisters. Did they go into the music industry at all? No. Not interested at all. Not even remotely. And mom and dad, were they encouraging to you? Yes. Well, you know, they came from a culture where music is - if you go to Europe and you say I'm studying music, they hug you and kiss you and say, oh, thank God. Well, over here if you say I'm going to be a musician, they say, yes, but what are you going to do for a living? What job do you have? Even my uncles when I'd go back east after I was on television, they say what are you doing now? I say, oh, I'm on TV. And they say, yeah, I know that, but what do you do? What is your regular job? They couldn't believe that someone could make a living at that. So you were pretty much employed from freshman year on? Yes. When I was a junior in high school, that would be like age 17,1 had two accordion schools. I was teaching in Carbondale, Pennsylvania, and Honesdale, Pennsylvania. One is 15 miles and one 6 is 30 miles from Scranton. Obviously, I couldn't drive yet. We had no car. So I'd take the bus and get there after school. I'd walk down a couple of blocks and get on the bus. It would take about half an hour. And I'd teach about six or seven students and then get the last bus back to Scranton and get to bed at maybe one in the morning. That brings up an interesting question. Were you expected to do any chores or anything around the house? Yes. I still did whatever it was I had to do. We had moved out of the big house by then. We were in a smaller house. But there was still a lawn to mow and things like that. So what did you do after high school? Well, I was supposed to have a musical scholarship to Penn State because when I was in my junior and senior year I went to Pennsylvania All-State Band and I was first chair percussionist. So I had a music scholarship. But I had a chance to go on the road with a band and to me that was a whole lot more important. How did that come about? Well, I started a small group when I was still in high school. We were working six nights a week. What was the name? The first group was called the Polka Dots, P-O-L-K-A, Dots, you know. And then the next group was called The Overtones. And then the next group I guess was called The Millionaires, which is a name that I kept right up until the last group that I had. And, chronologically, I was working with this group. It was a trio. We were working at the local hotspot, The Glass Hat. The Glass Hat? Yes, which was like the sophisticated place. And then we went on the road with this group. We used to travel in the summers while I was still in high school. But then when I graduated we went on the road organized. We added one member and became a quartet and we went on the road full time. And that group lasted from '52 till about '56 or '7. The guitar player got drafted. It was one of those groups where we sang four-way vocals and we all played. We had arrangements. So when a guy leaves you don't just get another guy in. You've got to get somebody who can sing his part, somebody who can play the same arrangements, and somebody who doubles on bass. He also doubled on trombone. So the group was never quite the same again. 7 So I added another guy to it. There were five of us. And that group messed around for a few more years until finally the singer wanted to leave. And then the sax player, his wife didn't like him traveling anymore. He was married. So he left. So that group broke up. And I started another group, which was this next to the last group of The Millionaires. There was a drummer from Baltimore, Joey Preston. He still lives in town here. He's retired now. And a trombone player from back east named Tony Ardido. And a guitar player named Norman Elliott, who was considerably older than the rest of us. We worked around the country. Did very well. It was a very strong group. And then we worked Chicago for about a year. And then the owner of the club in Chicago said I think I can get you booked in Vegas. We came out here to work the Frontier hotel. And then we were there for about six months and we left to go on the road again. We came back and worked the Thunderbird. And the guitar decided ~ like I say he was considerably older. He didn't want to travel. So he joined a house band. And then one of the owners of the Thunderbird hotel, Lee Dear » L-E-E, Dear, D-E-A-R, Mr. Dear to everybody, was a huge jazz fan. Lee ran a club in Wichita, Kansas. He could not be on the license out here because he had a felony conviction from back there. He was obviously connected to some people. But Lee is the guy who sent Charlie Parker to New York. Charlie Parker worked at his club. And he said you don't belong here; you've got to get out of here. So he discovered Bird, you know. Anyway, Lee was one of the owners of the Thunderbird and he loved our group. And so he said to me, when the last group broke up, put together a big group. Get a couple more musicians and a girl singer and you can stay here forever. So I went out and got the best piano player in town and the best bass player. Names? Piano player was Mike Wofford, who has been on TV a million times. Mike lives in San Diego. He's a brilliant piano player. Bass player was Chuck DeLora, who was living in town at that time. He now lives in Lake Tahoe. Richie Mattison was the horn player. He played bass, trumpet and tuba. Richie later went on to be head of the program at North Texas State. And from there he started his own music program in Jacksonville, Florida, and it became the number-one jazz school in the country. Richie was a teaching genius, arranging, teaching, everything. The drummer was a 8 local boy named Clay Campbell. The girl singer was Kay Brown, who was married to Maynard Ferguson, just divorced from Maynard. That was it. There were three horns, three rhythm and a girl singer. Have any trouble putting that band together? No. And we rehearsed literally eight hours every day. Everybody was so excited. The band was so good. The arrangements were so good. And we worked at the Thunderbird. And I mean Steve & Eydie Gorme and everybody, Mary Kaye Trio, they'd all come in. They'd say we don't believe how good the group is. And we were going to stay there for forever. But the Thunderbird, they had an incident with Lee Dear, who was also the credit manager. And he was in charge of the entertainment too. Something came up. He couldn't be at some meeting. There was a controversy. So Lee said I've got to get an entertainment director. I recommended a guy whose name will not be mentioned. But Lee hired him. And after we were there a couple ot weeks, he gave us our notice. So it was one of things where we didn't really care because the group was so good we didn't have a problem. We went immediately to Reno. We did an album for Capitol Records, which I mean that was unheard of in those days. Let me ask a question real quick. First of all, this was The Millionaires? Yeah. You started the band. You were playing in the band. And now you had to market the band. How was it to juggle all those different things? Well, not only that, I was the leader and the formulator of the band. So I signed for all the uniforms. I mean we had double-breasted Italian silk suits and Italian shoes. And the girl singer had real expensive gowns. So I signed up. We were on our way. So we were working Lake Tahoe. And our manager, who was Maynard Sloate, who is well-known around town, flew up to Tahoe and he said we have a problem. And I said what problem? I've never been so happy in my life. He said, well, there's a little friction in the band. What are you talking about? Well, the drummer wants to do more. He incidentally was the weakest link. He wants to do more. He wants to sing. He wants to be up front. So I said, but, we need him as a drummer. We have so much strength up front. Anyway, he started this and he said that somebody's stealing. 9 What was happening is he knew how much money we were making. I think we were making $5,000 for the band, which was very good for a lounge act in those days. So there were six of us. First of all, the manager got 20 percent or 15, whatever Maynard was taking. Then the agent got ten. So there was a quarter of that gone. So whatever was left was divided by six. And when he divided it by six his check was less than what it should be. So he brought that up. He did not take into account the union work dues in the local in which you're performing. He did not take into account if you're in a town more than two weeks there's a traveling rule saying you have to join that union and pay one quarter's dues. So when I finally presented him with those bills, it turned out I was the leader and I was making less than the other five members of the band. So he felt embarrassed with that. But the bad blood was brought to the surface. Anyway, the girl singer was upset with the whole thing. She had a domestic problem at home. Her current husband was having a substance abuse problem. This was leaking over to her. The next thing you know the group broke up. So I mean it was a tragedy. It was a tragedy. What year was that do you remember? Yeah. It was '62. It was 1962 right after New Year's. We worked New Year's at Lake Tahoe. So we came back to Vegas and we said we're going to put together a new group. So myself, the bass player, the piano player and the other two horn players, five of us, were together. So we lost the girl singer and the drummer. But we could get another drummer. And we were looking for another girl singer. And then the piano player decided he didn't want to continue. So we were going to get Gus Mancuso. But what happened was we couldn't get everybody together and rehearsed in time. The horn player Richie says I've got to take a gig for two weeks because they're going to repossess my car. So Richie took a gig. At the end of the first week, the bass player said I've got to take a job. And I was the one that had to stay idol to hold this together. So all of a sudden, they were knocking on the door. I couldn't pay the rent and couldn't pay the utilities. Our fourth--no. Our son wasn't born yet. My wife was pregnant with our youngest son. It got really squirrelly. So I was writing checks. I had a checking account in Scranton and one here. So what I would do is kite a check. I'd write a check from the Scranton bank and deposit it here and then write a check from the Vegas bank and deposit it there just to keep - small checks, you know, just to keep going. I mean it 1 0 wasn't a good time. So, finally, I went to Frank Ross with the Mary Kaye Trio, who's now deceased. Well, they're all gone but Norman Kaye. I said what am I going to do? He said you've got to take a job as a single. You shouldn't be with a group anyway. You have your own thing. I'll put you in touch with an agent. And he put me in touch with an agent. I'll remember his name in a minute, George something or another from L.A. He called me back the next day and he said I have a job for you for two weeks in Spokane, Washington. I"d never even heard of Spokane. So I said all right. He said if s a piano bar thing. I said all right. I play enough piano because I switch from accordion to piano. That's a natural. And I could tell jokes and sing. So I said okay. George Burke was his name. He's gone too. So I said, George, I'm embarrassed to ask you this, but I don't have the money to get to Spokane. The bus ticket was like $73. And it took two and a half days because it would go from here to Reno and then it would go to San Francisco. So I said it's going to take me three days to get there. He said, okay, I'll put a money order in the mail for $73. You pay me back your first week. Okay, George. Anyway, I said send it special delivery. They didn't have in those days overnight. This is '62. So he said I'll put it in the mail. It'll get there. It didn't get there. So I called him and he said, look, this job pays 300 a week. I'm only making $30. I don't want to go through all this for 30 bucks. Call the agent in Spokane. So I called the agent in Spokane. His name was John Powell. And he was a small, sort of mousy-looking guy with horn-rim glasses and blond curly hair. I mean he looked like a Caspar Milquetoast kind of guy. And an agent in Spokane, what could he be booking, you know? So I called him and said, Mr. Powell, here's the deal. But he said I booked you and my name is on the line. He said I'm going to send you an airline ticket and when you work you give it back. I said okay. So it paid 300 a week and the airline ticket was $309. So I had no choice. So I flew to Spokane. And he met me at the airport and he saw he and he almost had a coronary. I mean I had a goatee and long hair. And I had like a real hip topcoat on and Italian shoes. He looked at me and I looked like an alien in Spokane. I mean Spokane is the heart of conservative right wing. You know, it's right next to Couer d Alene, Idaho, which is where the American Nazi party is. So Spokane was like really right wing. 11 I got up there and all the way out to this club he kept saying remember this isn't a jazz gig. This isn't a jazz gig. Okay, John. So we get there. It was named the Stockyards Inn. I assumed that implied it was a steakhouse because there's a Stockyards Inn in Chicago and Kansas City. It was so named because of its geography. It was located in the middle of the feeding pens. So we had to walk on planks across the steer residue. It was raining when I got there and there was a big sign on the front, "Direct from Los Vegas." And he misspelled Las Vegas. He had L-O-S. And the owner's name was Rocky Rothrop. He was a caricature of a nightclub owner that you would put into a script. What I'm going to tell you now, the beginning of this, sounds like a comedy routine, but it is literally true. I walked into the room. It was a rectangular room, long, skinny room. It had an antique bar in it. It wasn't a large room, but it was good-sized. And he said, what do you need? I said, well, there has to be a piano, Rocky. You know, I need a piano. He said what kind of piano? I said, well, a piano bar would be best. And he never heard that term, piano bar. And so he said what's a piano bar? Well, my explanation was that of a person who was incredulous that he wouldn't know what a piano bar is. So my explanation was brief. I said it's like a piano and there's a bar built around it. You put barstools and the people can drink and you can sing and dance. He said, oh, that's a great idea. So I went in that night. And he had bought an old upright piano, put it up against the wall. And he built a bar around the back of me. So I had to climb under to get in and the people were staring at my back. And the piano was an antique. So some of the notes didn't work and it was out of tune. It was unbelievable. I played two or three nights and I talked to the people at the bar. They were amused because I had been to Las Vegas and Chicago and I was a little more erudite than they were. So people would come in and they'd sit around. And he said is everything okay? I said Rocky, you know what? I said I can't see the people. The bar is not supposed to - ha, don't worry about it. I've got that covered. The next night I went in. I'm not exaggerating. The same piano up against the wall, the same bar, but now mounted on top of the piano, a mirror from a dresser that would swivel up and down. And he gave me a wooden dowel. He said, see, you can reach up and you can move that mirror and see the whole room. 12 Anyway, I would go in the men's room and actually cry. And I had pictures of my children. I said I've got to do it for them. So I worked there the rest of the week. And then he said everything okay? I said, Rocky, you know if there was a light there? Got you covered. Next day I go in. Now we have the same piano with the mirror and hanging from the ceiling a cord and above me like an 80-watt bulb with one ot those shades in a poolroom. So I'd play and encore and turn on the light and it would be like a train coming down. Everybody would go, Whoa. So the last thing I asked for was a microphone. He said, well, the whole place is wired. All I've got to do is rent a microphone. So he went and got me one of those little stand mikes you use on a desk like from the old TV series. Broadway and Crawford, Highway Patrol, calling all cars, you know. So it was a little — like eight inches high. And he said all I've got to do is plug it in. There's a sound system. So I'd set the mike on the piano. But now I had a microphone. So I could turn around--I'd sit on the keyboard. I'd talk to the audience. I started doing jokes, right? Well, the audience - people would come in from the dining room. The place was crowded now. So Rocky picked up my option for another two weeks. Did you want it? Well, I wasn't sure, but it was a gig. Anyway, the first week I was nine dollars in the hole from my airfare. So I had to pay John that back. So then the second week started to draw a bigger crowd. Then the third week, bigger crowds. There was a big mayoral race going on. And the big thing with the mayor is that he was promoting drinking milk. I mean a mayor of a major city was -- that was his whole theme. I think he had a deal with some dairy or something. I don't remember his name. Anyway, I did a joke one night because I was doing some political jokes. I said what do you think about the mayor? I said the mayor is gay. I think I said fag. In those d