As a 45-year-old without any formal writing instruction, I came to a slowly evolving epiphany that is still emerging to this day. It came to me as a result of an old man musing about his life just before the end. Just before my father, Mel, died of prolonged Prostate cancer, he told me he could have done so much with his life.
After he passed, his revelation stayed with me. I had read many of the letters he wrote back and forth to friends, relatives, bankers and lawyers. These letters were composed of insults, hyperbole and ironic street-wise originality of my father’s era. Mainly they were drop-dead funny. The art of the insult was and is hilarious if you don’t take it personally. Plus, he was a great baseball coach, promotional genius and had a keen eye for art.
While he did plenty in his life, coming from total poverty to the American Dream, I began to understand that he felt he had cheated himself and maybe the world of the talents he suspected loomed just beneath the surface. His realization came when it was too late to do anything about them.
As I reached my mid-forties, already a 20-year veteran of owning restaurants, I began to wonder about my legacy. I became cognizant subconsciously after my dad’s passing of any new thing I could do that that might be considered as adding to humanity rather than just being the beneficiary of others.
New beginning 1
Nineteen years ago at the age of 45, I started publishing a newsletter for my eight restaurants at the suggestion of my director of operations. Always a fan of David Letterman’s Top Ten List, I started my own column using inspirational, observational and funny writings of others to fill my assignment. Every once in a while, a thought would intrude that seemed like a quote or joke and I’d include it with all the others.
One day I gathered the original quotes and jokes I had done and, on a lark, dispatched them to the National Enquirer, much to the derisive laughter of any and all I showed them to. Nine weeks later, I was published opposite a story of male strippers and Halle Berry. Mom was proud and my detractors were amazed. Hell, I was astonished!
That impelled my obsessive personality to create more. For a while I was creating 500 to 600 original quotes and jokes a month while maintaining my full time job in restaurant ownership. Soon I was published 16 times in Reader’s Digest Quotable Quotes and ten times in Forbes. Because of the widespread circulation of those publications, many newsletters, personal websites, universities, cities, countries, books and magazines began to print my words.
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About two years ago, my son and business partner, Aaron told me I ought to get a Twitter account. When I inquired why, he responded that I was already there. People from all over the world in 20+ different languages were Tweeting my quotes every day and night.
New beginning 2
In the early 2000s a good friend and banker, Dave O’Reilly got me interested in Yahoo Finance message boards as related to the parent company I am a franchisee of. As I kept up with my company, I began to wander to other business boards. What I found astounded me. There was so much hate, anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism going unanswered, I felt it was my destiny to answer back. I learned how to research for my verbal battles and thought that some of my answers resembled political op-eds.
So, like my quotes, I began sending those out. I’ve been picked up by some papers and a few websites, but my biggest break was getting published by Binyamin Jolkovsky owner and editor of the Jewish World Review. JWR has a lineup of killer writers and analysts, including Charles Krauthammer, Ann Coulter, Bill O’Reilly, Michelle Malkin, Larry Elder, Arnold Ahlert and David Limbaugh. I find the pressure of putting out a weekly column and keeping my day job first at hand daunting, yet challenging.
Out of all the people who have discussed, copied my columns (with or without) attribution, I was shocked one night as I was sitting in a grocery store parking lot in Jefferson City, Mo. I was listening to President Obama on the radio, reiterating my column in a speech to the foreign correspondents. The article was published in JWR that morning and was called “Leave it to Uighurs” a phrase that Barack used during the speech.
New Beginning 3
Having written thousands and thousands of original jokes along with my quotes, I sought to sell some to stand-up comics. Being in a small town, I didn’t know many who tickled laughs for a living, so I decided to do my own material. As someone who refused to speak before any crowd above two for 25 years in my life, I found this rather formidable. For my first open mike, at the Funny Bone in St. Louis, I had my son and a few good friends attend, just in case I collapsed in stage fright as the odds seemed to favor. Well, without a shred of paper, I got through it. I wasn’t too funny, mainly because my jokes weren’t connecting with the audience and I rushed through the performance because I knew I was being timed.
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But I got through it.
So, I developed an act catered to my life experiences and through repetition, timing improvements and other gigs and experiences, I became reasonably funny, to the extent that I was asked to MC for some real pros, like Tom Mabe and David Naster. I was recruited to MC Naster in Jefferson City for a fundraiser. Naster liked my material so much, he paid me $100 for the title of his then upcoming book, IS THERE LAUGH AFTER DEATH?
New Beginning 4
Always a big fan of news and talk radio, I wondered to myself. I said, “Self, why don’t you see if you can get a gig as a radio talk show host?” My answer was to try, just to see if I could do it. I waited about six months for an hour slot to come open in what could be called the vanity (as opposed to Hannity) hour. Usually used by techies, lawyers or doctors, the shows resembled the Prostate Healthy Hour—or How to Prune Your Tomato Plants—or How to Give Home Pedicures for Your Chihuahuas.
My break came about five years ago. I’ve gone from supporting my show with my restaurant and quarry and asphalt plant commercials to eight other sponsors, a total of ten. My next ploy is to get another hour at this or another station. Wonder if the radio station manager, affectionately known as pig vomit, will be reading this.
We figure we get anywhere from 180,000 to 220,000 listeners and growing--every Friday. With the show being put on podcast every week, I’m sure we get many more than that. People are now volunteering to sponsor the show.
New beginning—who knows?
I’m not one of those bucket listers who thinks I ought to become an Iron Man, especially when you can go to the movies and see that. My competitive sporting days are long over, except for golf—and that’s highly disputable. I’m sure there will be other things that take my interest in relation to what I’m doing right now.
The most important lesson you can learn from winning is you can
Even though my father realized too late that he didn’t have enough time to explore his hidden talents, he certainly passed the dream on to me. Because of him, when it’s my time, my regrets will be limited to the general malaise and suffering of one who is about to die. In my opinion, that’s pain enough!
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Now it’s my turn. It’s done wonders for my self-image and happiness. I’ve even taken to living my quote—when you reach for the stars you have to look up—and that at the seemingly older age of 64.
I believe the wealthiest inheritance you can leave your children is the example you set in life--and if they kvetch too much about it, I’ll leave ‘em in my won’t.