Saturday, August 7, 2010

Comedian London Lee is still making people laugh with his stand up act 50 years later

Published Aug. 4, 2010 in Boca Raton Forum
By Joanie Cox

London Lee packed New York Comedy Club in Boca Raton July 30-31. The stand up comedian has appeared on more than 250 television shows throughout his career including “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson,” “The Ed Sullivan Show,” “The Mike Douglas Show” and many others. In 1974, he scored some big screen fame getting a part in The Gambler opposite James Caan and Paul Sorvino. Now 70, Lee has lived a life most comedians only dream about. After opening for legends such as Tom Jones and Sammy Davis Jr., he has enough tales of life on the road to fill at least two autobiographies. But what I love about Lee is he sticks to what he knows. He’s funny and he uses witty lines in lieu of vulgarity to get laughs. This is something comedians half his age could learn a thing or two about.

Growing up in a wealthy family, Lee earned the nickname “Rich Kid” when he started appearing at coffeehouses in the early ‘60s in Greenwich Village, New York. “I was making $28 a week and working at a club with Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara,” Lee says. “Down the street, Tiny Tim would be doing his act and Richard Pryor and Woody Allen would be at another club down a few doors down.”

I’m sort of blown away by Lee’s ease on stage. He doesn’t riff on the front row of his audience sitting in the comedy club, which is something I’ve seen every young comedian do. He cracks jokes about Paris Hilton, getting older and a trip to Mexico he refers to as the “Kaopectate festival.” He only recently considered adding a couple of expletives into his act six months ago and his words are strategically placed--not tossed around out of habit. “My father worked in the garment business and we were really rich. He wanted me to go into the business too, but I decided it wasn’t for me,” Lee explains. “They sent me to a psychiatrist and it was there I decided to become a comedian. I went home and told my father and he said the psychiatrist needed more help then I did.”

Joking about his wealthy upbringing and family members, Lee created a clever act that caught the attention of comedian Lenny Bruce’s mother who took Lee home to meet her son. “Lenny and I became friends and I ended up moving in with him,” Lee says. “He told me ‘Don’t ever lose that Rich Kid act. It’s your identity and makes you different.’”

Lee appeared on “Talent Scouts” in 1963 and Carol Burnett ended up discovering him. “I was a very mixed up kid,” Lee adds. “From ages 10 to 18, I didn’t want to go to school. I stuttered so bad I asked to go to the bathroom every time the teacher asked me to read because the kids would all laugh at me. I decided to try to make a career out of people laughing at me then.”
Lee went on to play a golf game that led him to meet Davis Jr., and he ended up opening for him in Las Vegas. “There was nothing Sammy couldn’t do. I would watch him rehearse with a 36-piece orchestra and he had such a good ear. He’d be able to say, ‘The second trumpet in the fourth row hit a bad note.’ Let’s start over.’ The man played seven instruments, could sing, dance and do impressions.”

While opening for Davis Jr., Lee says he has fond memories of looking out in the front row which would often include Ann Margaret, Anthony Quinn and Paul Newman.
“Every time I had a chance to do a movie, I’d turn it down and to do stand up in Vegas, which I think was a mistake,” Lee says. “But I am the best I’ve ever been in my whole career...right now.”

Lee is set to appear at New York Comedy Club’s new location, 4116 N. Ocean Drive, in Lauderdale-By-The-Sea in September. Call 561-470-6887 or visit for details.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Inside the life, sacrifices of an Iraq war soldier

By Joanie Cox

Published in Boca Raton Forum

June 30, 2010

“Freedom isn’t free.”


Every Fourth of July weekend, I gather with my family at my uncle Raul’s house to chow down on barbecue and set off some fireworks. Our Boca Pointe neighbor Harvey Hurvitz usually brings over enough skirt steaks to feed half of Palm Beach County and my aunt JD typically breaks out her guitar to strum a patriotic song. However none of that would be possible without the thousands of men and women who continue to put their life on the line in a foreign land while we enjoy our time with our families safe at home.

One of those men is Brian DeSantis. The 28-year-old National Guardsman who lives in Palm Beach Gardens recently returned from Iraq for a two week rest and relaxation leave. Then, it’s back to Iraq for another mission. He’s typically a humvee driver during night missions. Stateside, he’s a Riviera Beach Police officer.

“Iraq is so different from when I was there in 2003. The deeper you get into Iraq, the better the living and dining facilities get because we’ve already done so much work over there,” says DeSantis, who has been a soldier for 10 years. “Back then, I didn’t get to take a shower for three months.”

The hardest part of each mission is leaving behind his young son and daughter and his mom’s Puerto Rican cooking. “I often listen to Andrea Bocelli’s ‘Time To Say Goodbye’ when I’m leaving,” DeSantis says. “I’m hoping to be back by Christmas. Facebook and Skype has definitely helped me stay in touch with my family though.” DeSantis has a digital camera filled with images of his time in Kuwait. “My first digital camera was destroyed by a piece of shrapnel after a roadside bomb hit our vehicle,” DeSantis says as he points to an image of a massive welt on his arm. “The force of the impact was so intense the camera strapped on my shoulder actually helped save my arm.”

Spiders have also been a problem for military personnel stationed in the Middle East. “I haven’t really seen any snakes, but tons of spiders,” DeSantis says. “They’re sandy colored and the size of tarantulas. There are also tons of mosquitoes.”

On some of the bases, such as Balad, DeSantis says they have a few luxuries of home like Taco Bell and Starbucks, but it’s mostly the same foods scheduled each week. “Friday nights are Mongolian barbecue night; then we’ll have a fajita night,” DeSantis says.

DeSantis isn’t sure where he’ll be celebrating the Fourth of July, but he’s certain of how. “I’m fighting a battle today so hopefully my son won’t have to 10 years from now,” he says. “Having an opportunity to do my part to make a better future for my children and the children of this country is definitely worth it.” Let freedom ring, brother.

BBQ Beats: 10 patriotic songs to keep you pumped on July 4th

American Soldier” Toby Keith

Independence Day” Martina McBride

Thanks To The Brave” JD Danner

Have You Forgotten?” Darryl Worley

American Saturday Night” Brad Paisley

Only In America” Brooks and Dunn

"Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning)" Alan Jackson

"Keep on Rocking In A Free World" Neil Young

"America the Beautiful" Ray Charles

"Star Spangled Banner" Jimi Hendrix

Friday, April 9, 2010

Eddie Money is still giving fans their money's worth after three decades

Eddie Money scored No. 1 singles on Billboard’s Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks with “Take Me Home Tonight” and “Think I’m In Love.” With 28 million records sold and more than three decades of touring time under his belt, the 61-year-old singer and saxophone player who started out as a New York City cop, is showing no sign of slowing down. And yes, women are still flashing him in the crowd. Eddie, who has a home in Palm Coast, Fla., performed March 5 at the Seminole Casino Coconut Creek. His daughter Jesse Money joined him on stage to provide backup vocals on “Take Me Home Tonight” and a soulful rendition of Sly and The Family Stone’s “I Want To Take You Higher.” He also gave props to the U.S. military by performing “One More Soldier Comin’ Home,” a tune penned by Detroit musician Greg Stryker, who has been hangin’ with Eddie on his latest tour.

I got to chat with Eddie on this tour bus before the show. What I enjoyed most about him was his candid delivery. While he’s written a play he hopes will one day reach Broadway, I think stand-up comedian could also be an option for him.

What inspired you to write a play?

“I went to see Jersey Boys and the camaraderie Frankie Vallie had with The Four Seasons reminded me of the same camaraderie I had with my first band.

I decided to write a play about me quitting the police department. My brother-in-law was in Vietnam at the time. My parents didn’t want me to move to California. So it’s basically a autobiographical play. The music is very Broadway and I’m very proud of that. It’s called Two Tickets To Paradise.

Did you write the music for it?

“I wrote the music, the script--I wrote it all. It took about two years. I picked up some actors and dancers. If you go to my web site you can see a little bit of the play on that.”

Since you have five kids now, do you have any parenting tips?

“What can you say about kids? They’re like AA--they’re cunning and baffling. They all live in California and they’re gonna do what they’re gonna do and try to get away with as much as they possibly can. They all think they’re gonna be famous because I’m famous and they don’t think I’m that good.They’re like ‘he made it and he’s not that good!’ No, I’m just teasing. My kids are amazing.”

Any secrets to longevity in the business?

“I had a lot of hits and a great management company. I had about 18 or 19 songs in the top 100 on the charts. I’ve played with The Rolling Stones, The Who, Fleetwood Mac, Steve Miller, The Police. I’ve played a festival for 650,000 people. And I had “Gimme Some Water” and “Take Me Home Tonight.” I used to do shows singing Top 40 Monday through Thursday and then I’d do my original material at college clubs on the weekend, like “Baby Hold On” and “Two Tickets To Paradise.” Actually, you learn how to write doing other people’s material. So I became a writer and had a lot of hits and now, I’ve got a lot of kids.”

Being out on the road is there anything you get tired of...

“As long as my voice sounds good and I get a certain amount of sleep. And everybody’s out there knocking down their beverages, having a good time, but I can’t be smoking a million cigarettes and getting high because I’ve got to give a 100 percent out there. I’ve got to make sure they get their [Eddie] money’s worth.”

Have you ever sang any of your songs at karaoke?

“I sang karaoke in Idaho. Nobody knew I was Eddie Money and I got a couple drinks in me and did “Baby Hold Onto Me. It was a contest and I got beat out by this really heavyset woman who did ‘You Light Up My Life.’ That’s a true story.”

What’s the craziest thing a fan has done?

“I’ve had women chase me all over the country. It’s really been crazy. I remember one time I opened a wardrobe cabinet and there was a chick hiding in the cabinet. I’m asking her, ‘What are you doing?’ And she’s screaming, “Eddie! Eddie!” But you know without the ladies, I don’t think I’d be making any money. I don’t have a lot of guy fans out there screaming, ‘You rock!’ “Take Me Home Tonight” is still the biggest fraternity song in the world. So I got a bunch of drunken college kids loving that song now.”

Are there any artists you’d like to record with?

“I like Mitch Ryder and The Detroit Wheels. I like Felix Cavaliere. But I record with my daughter and she’s really good. I have a lot of fun doing that.”

What do you do when you’re not touring?

“I try not to sit around and eat a thousand donuts. I play golf and now I’ve got to start thinking about going to the gym, jumping on the bike. The doctor says, ‘You’ve got this, you’ve got that.’ I say doc, do me a favor, just validate me and get me out of here.”

What do you think of music reality shows like “American Idol?”

“You know what? It’s a little too hokey for me. I’m more rock. It’s too straight. I’ve got a really straight sister and she loves the show. I’d sit in the basement with her and I don’t know what I’m listening to. It’s like Lawrence Welk goes to Hollywood and adds a vocalist.”

Eddie Money will perform at the Pompano Beach Seafood Festival April 17. Visit for details.