My Acting Career (So Far)

Opening night is coming up.  The Fire Hall Theatre’s production of Guys on Ice opens February 12 in Grand Forks.  Foolishly enough perhaps, the theatre people have asked me to be a part of it.

Without giving away too much, I’ll be in the Guys on Ice “half time show.” I hope you’ll call 777-4090 and support the Fire Hall Theatre by reserving a fistful of tickets.  It runs weekends through February 28.

Last year I was one of about a dozen of the usual suspects from around town who were asked to die in the opening scene of Dearly Departed at he Fire Hall Theatre.  Chuck Haga, UND President Robert Kelley and others gave their lives as well one night only.

But actually, my acting career may have peaked several years ago when I appeared on an episode of the ABC soap opera General Hospital. The networks call them daytime dramas.  Somewhere there’s tape to prove it.

If you work for an ABC television station and you’re going to be in the Los Angeles area, as they say, sometimes the producers will have you written into their show.  That’s what they did with me.

Angela Cary, WDAZ’s promotion director at the time, set it up.  One day (while I was in the shower) General Hospital’s casting director called me at home.  After a short, rather odd conversation with her on the phone she said “I’m looking at your head shot.  I think we’ll make you the manager of an upscale, European casino.”


As instructed, I dragged a blue suit and a grey suit with me to California, only to learn at the last minute I’d be dressed by the show in a tuxedo.

The script arrived in Grand Forks after we’d left for the coast, so the writers a copy delivered by currier to our hotel (at some expense).  I would have one line, four words. “Urgent call, Mr. Jax.”

My scene would be with Jasper “Jax” Jacks, the character played by hunky Australian actor Ingo Rademacher.  (Ingo also came in 5th in the 16th season of Dancing with the Stars in 2012.)

Fairly long story short, arriving at the appointed hour, they “blocked” the (rather complicated) scene, rehearsed it once and shot it in one take.

Then somebody told me to be sure to check in at the business office before leaving “or you won’t get paid.”  I told them I didn’t expect to get paid, that I was doing it to show our view our news viewers what it’s like to be on a soap opera, I mean daytime drama. I was told “You don’t understand. You have to get paid.  It’s a union thing.”

Back at home a few weeks later in the mail I got a check with a full-color image of Mickey Mouse in the corner for three hundred and thirty-some dollars. Not bad at all for about an hour’s “work.” Ginny and I used the money to buy a set of bookcases. A couple weeks later I got another “residual” check in the mail for something like eighteen dollars.  A couple weeks after that, another check arrived, for fifty cents, a little more than the postage.  What’s more, about half of that amount had been taken out.  Some of it went to the union.  (I’m not making any of this up.)

I couldn’t bring myself to cash the check.  Eventually, I framed it.  But first, when tax season rolled around that year, I insisted that our tax guy declare it as income.  He showed it to everybody in the office.  They all agreed it was the smallest check any of them had ever seen.

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Ruttger’s @100

A letter arrived in our snail mail the other day.  It was from Randy and Tina Ruttger, the third generation owners and operators of Ruttger’s Birchmont Lodge on Lake Bemidji.  It was not unexpected.  We get one every year.  So do hundreds, maybe thousands, of other of Ruttger’s visitors.  The thick of winter must be a good time to get potential patrons thinking about their summer vacations and laying down deposit money.

This letter was a little different, though.  It recalled some of the resort’s now 100 year history, starting with its humble beginnings back in 1915.  Good times, but also bad, like a disasterous fire that destroyed three of the resort’s main buildings in September of 1920.  Somehow Ruttger’s reopened the following July.

Ginny and I have spent a few days at Ruttger’s almost every summer since we were first married in 1977.  Usually just a couple of nights at a time.  But they are nights away from most of our usual distractions.  We leave the laptops at home and use our cell phones only in moderation.  In exchange, we’re rewarded with lake sights and sounds, loons in the water and kids playing in the sand.  Neither ever changes and neither ever gets old.

We usually land at Ruttger’s early in the afternoon. We unpack in time for a nice long nap. Before we know it, it’s time for a cocktail and then dinner somewhere. In the morning we’ll read or put the top down on the car and drive around the lake to Bemidji, hitting a thrift shop or two along the way.  Pretty soon it’s time for lunch and nap time again, maybe a swim in the pool or a sauna and then dinner. If it sounds boring, bore me.

We don’t usually go in or on the lake much, but there’s just something about being near the water that’s unlike anything else.

We live in, maybe not constant, but occasional fear that Ruttger’s will be taken down and replaced with luxury condos or something.  If that ever happens, God forbid, a little bit of our souls would go with it.

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Escape or Die

One of the more interesting people I’ve been introduced to through my work in television is escape artist Dean Gunnarson.  Also, one of the nicest.

I met Dean in his hometown of Winnipeg on the Halloween anniversary of his first big escape.  It was a Houdini-like stunt in which he attempted to free himself from a box lowered into the muddy Red River in front of 10,000 people in downtown Winnipeg. The escape failed. In fact, it nearly took his life.

Rather than being lowered horizontally into the water as planned, the trunk hit the water at too much of an angle, allowing too much water to rush into the box too soon. (There was probably a meeting with the crew later.)

One over-riding thought ran through my mind during my interview with Dean and during the trip back across the border that day.  This guy is a little crazy. But it’s a craziness that has taken him around the world more than a time or two.

This past December Dean successfully recreated the 1983 Winnipeg escape.  This time in shark-infested waters, as they say, of the Bahamas.

Dean and his Winnipeg crew are in the middle of production of a new reality series for Canadian television called Escape or Die.

Just last night Dean performed another outrageously  dangerous escape above the famed Fountainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach.  Again, the Escape or Die cameras were rolling.

The first of twelve episodes are to be seen beginning this spring on the OLN network.  I can’t wait.

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Guys on Ice

Going to be part of Guys on Ice next month, they tell me.  Guys on Ice is a “cheesy little musical” about ice fishing in Wisconsin.

Guys on Ice runs February 12 – 15, 19 – 21 and 26 – 28.  Reserve your tickets at TicketMaster and we’ll see you there.  You betcha!

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Je Suis Charlie

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Save the Date

We’re going to be emceeing the annual Raise Your Paws for Pets banquet for the Circle of Friends Humane Society Thursday evening, April 2, at Alerus Center in Grand Forks. We have done it several years now and it’s always fun.

Usually there’s a big live and silent auction and lots of fun, food and games. Much more information about it to come.  For now, hope you’ll save the date, April 2, and join us.

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Wishing you peace in the new year and always.

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Joe Cocker

Several years ago I was asked to welcome the audience to a Guess Who concert at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks.  The opening act was Joe Cocker.

Waiting to “go on” to delivery my little welcoming speech, I was sitting backstage next to a desk.  The only thing on it was a meal request form from the caterer.  It read as follows.

Name:  Joe Cocker   Request:  Ham Sandwich

That’s all.

I wanted it very, very badly.  Framed in my kitchen, it would make a great conversation piece.

No one was around.  Several minutes passed.  But I did not pocket it.  For one thing, stealing is wrong. (Also, I was afraid of getting caught.) More importantly, I thought if I take it, Joe Cocker might not get fed on time. I didn’t want to be responsible for that.

Mr. Cocker was insanely good that night, as usual.  He richly deserved his post-performance ham sandwich.

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Ringing Dem Bells

In contention for worst selfie of the holiday season, I’m blaming the questionable lighting in the entryway of the Home of Economy.  I need all the (lighting) help I can get.

Nevertheless we had a great time ringing for the Salvation Army today.  Thanks to everybody for your donations. It doesn’t seem like Christmas until we’ve had a chance to ring.

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Dawn Sears

Sad to learn of the passing yesterday of Dawn Sears.  Dawn was an established and respected singer in Nashville, a member of the Grammy Award nominated group The Time Jumpers which includes singer/guitarist Vince Gill and her musician husband Kenny Sears.

I met them both some time ago when Dawn was working on a solo career.  More recently, she was also a backup singer with Vince Gill’s touring band.  I last saw Kenny performing with the Grand Ole Opry band in Nashville.  Two very nice people.

Dawn was born in East Grand Forks.  In recent months, she battled lung cancer.  She was 53.

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