happy me

happy me
"I'm not pissed yet"

Friday, July 21, 2023

 Regarding the passing of Tony Bennett

      When I first moved to New York City my survival gig when I wasn’t in the theater or doing a concert, I worked with this organization called New York City swing. They were a high-end wedding/bar mitzvah/celebration band. One of those jobs was Sumner Redstone’s wedding, the President of Viacom. His bride was 40 years his junior and a school teacher, but that’s not the point. His guests included Barbara Walters, Sylvester Stallone and a number of other celebrities including Tony Bennett. 

     That evenings festivities was to include a performance by Diana Krall in-between our third and fourth set. The time came for that performance and she was stellar, and as a bonus I got to meet Elvis Costello whom she had just started dating. For the last two songs she invited Tony Bennett up to sing. Thrilling. We got up to do our thing again in the fourth set and I sang the best is yet to come by Frank Sinatra and did my best Louis Armstrong impression on the song called “What A Wonderful World”. After those two performances I knew I was done for the evening and went to the back bar to grab a Chardonnay. 

     To my surprise, Tony Bennett catches my eye and gets up and starts to walk over to me. I panic. What could I possibly say to one of my idols? He extends his hand and says, “Hi, I’m Tony”. In my best, stressed out broken, middle school voice I strained out “I know who you are!” (As an attempt at a joke) He chuckled and said “I just wanted to come over here and tell you what an exceptional singer you are. And that Louis Armstrong impression was spot on”. 

     I was floored and at a loss for words. I blurted out “thank you Mr. Bennett” as he was starting to walk away he turned back and said, “call me Tony, kid!” 

And I thought to myself, I can die now. 

It was a testament to his legendary kindness throughout his life. He didn’t have to do that, and yet he did. What an exceptional singer. And what an exceptional human being. RIP, Tony…

Michael Lanning, July 21, 2023

Friday, November 18, 2016

The 2016 Election (I voted, so I get to say something about it!)

     I live in one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world, New York.
In my building alone, there are Romanians, Ukrainians, Latinos, and Muslims from several different Islamic countries. I love the fact that I can walk down the street and within 5-10 minutes, hear 4 or 5 different languages being spoken. There's a Muslim couple with a beautiful new baby girl I fawn over every time I see them in the elevator. They are a sweet couple and keep to themselves. I can only imagine what fears must be going through their minds after this election.
      This election was the most surprising in my lifetime. Clinton was NOT my first choice. I was a Bernie Sanders supporter. Bernie was a “Tell it like it is” kind of guy, except he backed his talk up with actual facts.
We now live in a virtual “fact free” society today. I've been guilty of spreading false memes on Facebook without checking if they were really true or not. Not anymore. I try to fact check everything I post nowadays, just so my own conscience is clear and clarity is served.
Clinton lost (just in case you live in a cave) and we must accept the results, even though it looks as though she won the popular vote by about 2 million or more votes. Something is VERY wrong with our electoral system.

      Let me be extremely clear, Drumpf has cozied up to Vlad “The Impaler” Putin, a throwback to the KGB and actually dictator of Russia (82% of the vote?? Gee, wonder how he got that much support?). He's already trying to appoint his son-in-law in a position of power in his admin (If that's not a conflict of interest, then I don't know what is!). He has as one of his closest advisors, one of the most divisive and ugly minded humans in our country, Steve Bannon ("Darkness is good"? Are you fucking kidding me!?) Or Rudy Giuliani, that screaming horse's ass in his admin? Drumpf said NOTHING about the endorsement he received from the KKK, which disqualifies him in my eyes, not that it matters and seems to be appointing a racist, Jeff Sessions (uses the “N” word and thinks the KKK is ”OK”, in 1986, he lost a voting fraud case he brought against 2 civil rights activists and told a black man “Be careful what you say to white folks”. SERIOUSLY!?). Several other appointees are questionable at best. He will be more of a divider, driving a wedge between Dems and whatever Repugs have become. They dropped their “#NeverTrump” signs and are following along like the dimwitted little ducklings they are. AND, he's selling out the very voters that voted against their own interests! Lobbyists are lining up to get their “goodies”!
(seriously, you fact free fools have to get it together...Drumpf NEVER CARED ABOUT YOU! He was only saying what you wanted to hear in order to win! Oh, never mind! You'll realize you're fucked soon enough!)
      Over 90 million of eligible voters didn't bother to vote, which gave Repugs a definite advantage in the states that mattered in the electoral college. Voter suppression went a long way in securing the vote for Repugs (I call them Repugs because their views are repugnant to me). If voter suppression continues, expect more of the same from these “Let's stop all this voter fraud” bullshit!
      My beliefs are in line with what Ellen DeGeneres said and I quote,

"I stand for honesty, equality, kindness, compassion, treating people they way you want to be treated and helping those in need.”

Some other quotes I love:

"Government is the Entertainment Division of the military-industrial complex."~Frank Zappa

Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat, but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.”---
 John Steinbeck

      Are you capable of empathy and compassion? Do you consider that a “weakness”? I don't think Drumpf ever worried a day in his life about where his next meal was going to come from, let alone worry about where he was going to live. I don't think he's capable of empathy or compassion. I think he's interested in only one thing...winning. I don't even think he's much interested in governing. This dude comes from a world of privilege as do his children, which he didn't really raise.
      This election was one of the meanest, ugliest, most racist elections I have ever witnessed in my lifetime. (I first time I voted, I voted for and worked on McGovern's campaign in '72, when he was crushed by Nixon, and we all know how well that worked out for “Tricky Dick”. (For those of you completely ignorant of American history, he resigned in disgrace after being impeached. LOOK IT THE FUCK UP! I AM TIRED OF DOING OTHER PEOPLE'S HOMEWORK FOR THEM!)
Another quote I am very fond of is Fran Lebowitz's “Think before you speak. Read before you think.”
      We face some very serious issues both at home and abroad. Join the ACLU, donate your time/money to worthy causes (Covenant House, Doctors Without Borders, Amnesty International, The American Civil Liberties Union are some of the causes I support with both my money and my time). Smile at strangers and be kind to them. Smile at Muslims and people who aren't your color. Give a homeless person the change in your pocket. I made a joke in a very tense elevator going several floors down, saying about the droning elevator music, “Hey! I think I played on that session!” People in the elevator started laughing! I want to see more of that happening in the world we live in, not less.
     And remember this: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.
Work hard to make the world a better place. Lord knows we need it now more than ever...and for God's sake, don't be willfully ignorant! REGISTER TO FUCKING VOTE AND THEN DO. JUST. THAT!!

Be the change that you wish to see in the world”---Mohandas K. Gandhi

I fear the day when the technology overlaps with our humanity. The world will only have become a generation of idiots.”---Albert Einstein

'Nuff said... M. Lanning 11/18/16

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

My Voice vs. “The Voice” (or the Non-dition)

"Lanning has an impressive Mack truck of a voice.He's an experienced rock and studio singer-imagine an uncanny grafting of Springsteen and Joe Cocker." -- Orange County Register

"Michael has the voice I wish I had". -- Composer Frank Wildhorn

"Michael Lanning is simply one of the best singers on the planet...period." -- Dave Clemmons, of WeepingElvis.com and NYC casting director

“The most soulful white man on the planet!” 
My Trans-Siberian Orchestra Introduction for 6 years on tour with them (we helped build that railroad, the original West coasties and I, but that's another whole blog!)

These are just some of the many accolades I’ve received over the years as a vocalist.

I’m gonna tell a story that’s even hard for me to believe, but, here goes.
After the closing of my second show on Broadway “Bonnie And Clyde” in late December, 2011, I was very upset and depressed, needless to say. It was also the very first time I ever had vocal problems in performances. I was normally known as “The Chords of Steel” throughout my career and it turns out I had a virus on my vocal chords for almost two weeks and had to call out of the show 6 times. This had never happened to me before, not to mention during the show’s opening night I was at about 30%. The Stage Manager finally convinced me to take some time off of the show. By the time I was 100%, we found out we were closing in 2 weeks! BITCHEN!!

I heard about a new show being cast called “The Voice” where, apparently, it didn’t matter how old you were (unlike “American Idol”, for they like control over their talent and so they pick them young). I really thought nothing of it except that 3 different times, 3 different people implored me to audition for this new show. Sometimes I accept messages from “The Universe” that come in 3s (I know, what’s a guy living in the 3 dimensional construct we all assume is reality supposed to assume?) Anyway, I took their advice and filled out the necessary forms online to audition for the show.

Several weeks later I got an email saying that my form had been accepted. It turns out that a friend from Connecticut, Kevin Knight, was going to the audition as well and he asked that if he drove down to go, could he crash at my place? I said sure, and he came in the night before the audition. He was also kind enough to go with me to my audition to keep me company, since his wasn’t until the next day.
“The Voice” audition was being held at The Javitz Center here in NYC, almost right across from the first Apt. I lived in Midtown. We took the subway into Midtown from my place in Astoria and as we walked up around 10 am there was already a line around the block that we could see no end of, so walked to the back of the line. It literally went around a long block and back around to the front of The Javitz Center! Foolishly we couldn’t see the end of the line from where we walked up from and walked the long way around. The line crawled along for SEVEN HOURS in 39 degree weather. (it was February). When we finally checked into the center, Kevin waited in the lobby for me and we were all herded into a very large room with 600 people sitting in 6 different 100 chair areas. We waited for another hour or so while one by one, each of those 100 people got up and went to a bunch of rooms that held 10 auditioners each. When it finally came for my group’s turn we walked into one of the many rooms and one by one, a cappella, (without accompaniment) we sang for some 24 year old intern lookin’ dude, who would barely look up from his laptop. I was number 7 out of the ten and roared a rendition of “Try A Little Tenderness” by Otis Redding. Sang the absolute shit out of the song. The intern lookin’ dude NEVER looked up from his laptop and when the rest of the last 3 did their tunes, he calmly said, “You’re all free to go. We won’t be needing any of you today.” If there was one time I wish I could’ve killed someone and either gotten away with it, or at least went to jail with a smile on my face, that intern lookin’ motherfucker would be dead. I was flummoxed and in shock! It didn’t hit me until we were on the subway home that I might have wasted several hours, let alone a whole day with that bullshit!!
I have NO IDEA what The Universe was trying to tell me. Maybe nothing at all. Maybe Jackshit! I still don’t know to this day. I feel as though I’ve been on a losing streak ever since. Will that stop me?? FUCK NO!
Damn the torpedos! On with the show! (just not THAT one)
M. Lanning 11/05/14

Thursday, September 18, 2014

School Daze or “Papa don’t take no mess!”

     Let me first start by saying that most of my time in school, both my brother and I got no end of bullying all throughout school. Never one to back down from a fight (except for a few years after I smashed my nose and face into reconstructive surgery falling off a homemade skateboard when I was 9 and could not bring myself to hit someone else in the face...that’s a whole other blog and I got over that by the end of Jr. High)
I hate bullies with a passion. So much so that even now, I will get in the middle of something that is not really my business, if it’s 2 or 3 against one.
That being said.....
My oldest son Ian had spent his first year in middle school (A. E. Wright) in the same district as Josh and Lauren. since Ian had changed schools several times since kindergarten, I thought it important he stay in the same district with his brother and sister, not to mention the friends he'd made, for the sake of stability. My 2nd wife had other ideas. There was a school near our house within walking distance called Hale Middle School (we later named it "Hell" Jr High because of its reputation). My wife and I fought all summer long about Ian going to that school. She wanted to use Ian as kind of a "guinea pig" for Josh and Lauren. Never mind he'd changed school districts more than the other two combined, which was not at all! By the time  Ian was in 2nd grade, he'd changed schools AND districts 4 times! Sure enough, my wife won the "war of attrition" (she was an expert at it!) and Ian ended up in "Hell". About 3-4 weeks in, he was getting bullied by 3 kids on a daily basis and would not talk about it, except to Josh, who was horrible at keeping secrets and told me. On one particular day, they bloodied his nose (almost breaking it) by smashing it on his desk as he was leaving. I took up the argument yet again with my wife and she had this "wait and see" BS attitude. Meanwhile, my poor little guy was going to school afraid every day.
       A week or so later, Ian was not where he was normally supposed to be for me to pick him up. I drove down Platt Ave. to see if he'd started walking home and there he was, walking as fast as he could, the "three little shits" 10-20 yards behind him. I pulled the van over with Josh in tow and told him to wait in the car. Ian took one look at me and tried to say something. I just told him to get in the van while I waited for these little fuckers to walk up to me. I got directly in their faces and said, "Are you the little snots that bloodied Ian's nose and won't leave him alone?". I could see the fear in their eyes as they admitted doing so. I told them, "I know who your parents are, I know where you live (I didn't really know either of those things, but I was beyond pissed and on a roll!) and I swear to God, if you even LOOK at Ian funny and I find out about it, I will come to your houses, grab your fathers and kill them in front of you in your own kitchen! ARE WE CLEAR?" (one was nearly in tears and I didn't give one fuck, for I was furious and PAPA DON'T TAKE NO MESS!) The kids, fearing for their lives, nodded yes and promised me they wouldn't bother him again. I waited for my significant other to get home, loaded for bear (usually when i'm loaded for bear, I end up shooting squirrels!), told her what had happened and then TOLD her that Ian would be back at A. E. Wright, end of fucking story! Within 2 weeks he was back at his old school as happy as could be! Those little shits could've been dead that very day had I not shown real restraint!
PS: Just a short disclaimer...I DO NOT condone this behavior for parents in the  least, it's just that I was so incredibly frustrated at the time and I love my children passionately!

M. Lanning 9/18/14

Friday, March 8, 2013

Ian’s First Trip to Dizzyland (0r how to terrorize a 3 year old)

       When My first wife, Adrian, was 7 1/2 months pregnant with our daughter Lauren, we decided it was time for our son Ian’s first trip to Disneyland. It was a perfect So. California day and we entered the Magic Kingdom all aglow and excited for our 3 year old “little man”, our nickname for him.
The very first ride we went on was “The Peter Pan” ride. No sooner then we get in the little ship and Peter says “And away we go!” the whole ride comes to a screeching halt, the lights go up. Mechanical failure. The entire illusion ruined. Ian was really confused and A and I were looking at each other like “Is this the way it’s gonna go today?” We told Ian that something had to be fixed and soon we were on our way. Then it was time for “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride” which Ian enjoyed very much.
The next ride we went on was “Autopia”, the little gas powered, pollution emitting cars you drive through this winding course. Ian insisted on at least wanting to steer and since he couldn’t reach the pedals, I reached them myself and we were on our way. (At this point, Adrian was on the sidelnes a lot because of her pregnancy). Well Ian kept driving us into the sides of the little “autopia” road, this way, then that, all while the car behind us kept smashing into ours,which only served to upset Ian more and more. I could barely contain my amusement from his frustration! He kept getting more and more upset until he was almost in tears, poor little guy! 
We then headed over to “The Mad Hatter’s Tea Cup” ride. Adrian stayed on the sidelines, but close enough to watch. Ian and I got on and it started to go around and I was making the tea cup twirl, which I had to stop because Ian complained of geting dizzy.
       As we were going ‘round and ‘round, Ian kept screaming at his mom and I could not make out what he was saying. As it turns out, Adrian was laughing harder and harder and I didn’t understand why. Apparently, Ian was yelling things like, “I wanna get off thi....”, “I don’t like this at al...” and “Make this sto...” and every phrase would trail off, leaving Adrian in stitches! We got off the ride and A was laughning so hard she had to sit down! I seriously thought she was going into hysterical apoplexy or early labor! She finally told me what was so funny through her laughter (Ian not thinking it was funny at all only made it funnier!) and we laughed about it for years to come. 
        The rest of the day we avoided any ride that might cause our little man stress (The Matterhorn and such) and stuck to “The Lincoln Exhibit” “It’s a Small World” and the “Sky Ride”, which Ian was a little afraid of at first, but ended up really enjoying (I guess it’s how you present it to a child by pointing out the wonder). He enjoyed all the other rides that weren’t “E Ticket” rides (some of you will know what I mean, please explain it to those that don’t!) the Penny Arcade, the food and he met Mickey, Minnie , Goofy and Cinderella and the rest of the day had a great time. He even wanted to come back soon! 
       To this day, I can’t think of that “Tea Cup” experience without literally laughing out loud! Poor little man!

God, how I miss my boy.

M. Lanning 3/8/2013

Monday, February 18, 2013

“Hey Mark!” (Or baseball and my sorely exposed lack of talent for sports)

       Some of my fondest, earliest sports memories growing up was watching the displaced Brooklyn Dodgers become the Los Amgeles Dodgers and play on our black and white television at the LA Coliseum and later at Dodger Stadium.
I wanted so badly to be a slugger, like Duke Snyder, or even better, a “southpaw” pitcher like the great Sandy Koufax. I had absolutely NO TALENT for any sports whatsoever, no matter how I tried. It was heartbreaking but true and I idolized kids that did. I even idolized my younger brother Billy, (younger by only 13 months) who seemed to have plenty of talent for whatever game he played.
I was 10 years old and my bother was 9 when we both tried out for Little League baseball. Back then you had to earn your way onto a team or get sent down to a “farm team” (that’s right, our Little League had farm teams where you could hone your skills, if you had any to begin with). Not everyone got a trophy for just showing up. My brother made it and i didn’t. I didn’t even make a farm team. I was devastated and there was no end to the teasing and got into plenty of fights over not even being picked as even a farm team player! (I had already done my 2nd show at San Bernardino Civic Light Opera, “The Music Man” and heard a lot of “Hey Lanning! Where’s your tutu?”) After several black eyes and scrapes I resigned myself to watching my brother play every week. I still had so much passion for the game and was proud my brother did so well so young. (he was put in center field and I remember him making a catch over the fence that was pretty much uncatchable!)
There was this kid on an opposite team by the name of Mark Paulis who was “THAT” kid. He was the kid that got the good grades, was great at any sport and all the girls liked him. THAT KID. Everyone wanted to be friends with Mark and he was a decent type and fairly gracious, given his stature, not to mention a couple years older than me. When you’re that young, a even two years seems like a lifetime.
One night my brother Billy’s team was playing Mark’s team and while I was getting a snow cone, Mark was up to bat. The concession stand was fairly close to Mark’s team’s dugout and I had just bought the snow cone and turned around when Mark hit a home run way over the fence! As he was rounding the bases and touching home plate I was standing right next to the entrance of his dugout! He was headed straight for me! I sooo wanted to say something cool to Mark. And what did I yell out??? “HEY MARK! NICE TRY!” (WTF!!??) He looked at me as though I had 3 heads and I wanted to melt like the snow cone I just bought!! IDIOT! Stupid! stupid! I walked away in abject horror and shame, knowing that Mark and I would NEVER be friends.
Well, things change and when my High School/College band, Tolbekin, was the big fish in the local Inland Empire pond (the pretentious name for the Riverside/San Bernardino general area). We played all the big gigs around the area (proms, dances, store openings with bubble gum contests, you know, the big time!) Mark loved our band, we became friends, despite my 10 year old blunderbuss of stupid and occasionally he’d show up at one of our gigs. We’d be taking a 15 minute break and he’d saunter over to the stage and say, “Hey Lanning! Nice try!” 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

How Does One Face Rejection? (this may be my shortest blog ever)

            Any way you can. 
It’s nearly always humiliating, but you just do.

M. Lanning 10/26/12