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Tagged ‘comedy & cheeseburgers‘

Backstage with the Rockettes

Saturday our family went to the Radio City Christmas Spectacular.   One of my friends from the improv community Stacey, is in the show.  We performed together in a troupe at Magnet Theater, and after our shows we’d grab a cheeseburger at the  Triple Crown Ale House, an improv hangout.   It was always a blast to be in a scene with Stacey — she’s a brilliant improviser, and if I remember correctly, she had the best high kicks in our troupe.

It’s hard to find the right adjective to describe the Christmas Spectacular.

Radio City Christmas Show - Rockettes-2photo: Bob Jagendorf

The “Missouri Rockets” were founded in St. Louis in 1925, long before the very first Christmas.    They opened at  Radio City Music Hall in 1932, followed a few years later by Conan O’Brien.

Nativity

We had such a blast watching our kids light up.  We did too.  Stacey took us backstage after the show to see all the props and costumes, and the camel’s dressing room, who is a bit of a diva and constantly demanding Evian.

Backstage with the Rockettes

Stacey couldn’t join us for lunch as she had to get ready for her second performance (on some days, she dances in four shows.)  We headed out to Petite Abeille to tackle the Banana Split Brussels Waffle, as seen on the Travel Channel’s “Breakfast Paradise.”   No celebrity sightings, but the last time my daughter and I dined there, we sat close enough to Aaron Eckhart to eavesdrop on his script writing session for his next feature.

Yelp gives Triple Crown 3 out of 5 stars.

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Haunted Cheeseburger @ The Stanley Hotel

There was a time when I didn’t believe in ghosts.

My tour of the Stanley Hotel’s room 217 provided more eerie confirmation in changing my opinion.  While I was filming a comedy documentary short about the inspiration behind Stephen King’s The Shining, we had a few paranormal encounters, yet I found the courage to stick around and have a cheeseburger at Cascades Restaurant.

Stanley Hotel

King, seeking sanctuary from some friends’ harsh criticism of his first draft  — initially about an amusement park where rides came to life and devoured visitors — escaped with his wife toward Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountains National Park.  Snowfall had closed the road, and the Kings headed back down the mountain, and spotted a dilapidated Stanley.  King was willing to check-in on the last night of operation for the season, even though the hotel looked pretty spooky.  As they were the only guests, they were given the Presidential Suite, room 217.  (Photo: Justin Balog)

Room 217

Mrs. Wilson, one of the first chambermaids employed when the hotel was built by F.O. Stanley in 1909, is said to still clean and sometimes haunt guests in 217, particularly if they’re messy.  Mr. King had a frightening experience that night, awoke the next day and wrote a new outline for The Shining.

jack_typing

What I love about this story is that it was Mr. King’s failure that played the muse for his masterpiece.   A few days before my visit to room 217 in Estes Park, CO , I had received some harsh criticism on a comedy project .  That same week, I heard a story that gave me hope, just down the road from the Stanley at Hyde Chapel.

Hyde Chapel

Rev. Dr. Stephen Wende shared a fascinating research study from the book Art & Fear.  In short, a class of art students was divided into two groups.  Group 1 was told they would be graded on making a perfect clay pot, while Group 2 was directed to make as many clay pots as possible, regardless of how they looked.

The researchers were stunned to discover that the  absolute best pot was produced by the “quantity” group, not the “quality” group.  In fact, the last two dozen clay posts produced by the quantity group were far better than the one pot produced by the “quality” group…. The researchers realized that all the time the quality group was sitting around thinking and theorizing about how to make the exact the perfect post, the other group was just churning them out.  And they were pretty bad at first, but they kept making them and making them and making them, and they got better as they went along, until by the time they finished, they were making wonderful, excellent pots.

Dr. Wende concludes, “Have you ever thought of the power of being willing to fail and learn and keep on failing until you begin to get it right?”  I guess to some, this seems obvious, but in that period for me, with a bruised ego and overwhelmed with doubt, it was an epiphany.

Like I imagine Stephen King might be, I am grateful for spirits unholy or otherwise, who guide us through the creative process, encouraging us to complete what we’ve been called to do.

Update:

Download Dr. Wende’s sermon free from iTunes: “That Sinking Feeling.”

Cascades at The Stanley Hotel: 3 out of 5 stars on Yelp

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Chicago Cheeseburger Classics

What must have happened is when I entered Chicago airspace, my Lose It! iPhone calorie counter was scrambled.  Oh, well.  I gained a few pounds during my week in the windy city as I managed to visit three cheeseburger joints. My buddy Kurt told me about the Billy Goat Tavern, which inspired the classic SNL sketch “Cheeseburger, Cheeseburger.” Kurt warned me, “you don’t go there for the cheeseburgers.” He was right, but it was a blast to dine in the icon.
Billy Goat Tavern

I always check in with Hamburger America author/filmmaker George Motz when I’m traveling for advice on joints I shouldn’t miss.  (Thanks Sean Amore for the intro).  He noted three, including M Burger, next to the hospital, which is frequented by doctors — mostly cardiologists.  I’m not sure, but the guy hiding next to me behind a dyed beard may have well been Dr. Richard Kimble.

M Burger

Finally, I visited Harry Caray’s Italian Steakhouse and grabbed a burger in the bar.  Holy Cow.
Harry Caray's Steakhouse

But hands-down, the best meal I’ve had in recent memory was at Hugo’s Frog Bar & Fish House. No cheeseburger here, I went for the fish.  Outstanding, and almost justifies a trip back to Chicago, for the goat cheese appetizer.  Don’t miss this if you’re in town!

About the Cheeseburger & Comedy blog series.

Mr. Bartley’s @ Harvard Square

When you’re at Harvard, you have to make smart decisions, and mine was to never again order a cheeseburger with barbecue sauce.  I arrived at that decision after eating at Mr. Bartley’s, a venue the Boston Herald describes as “Boston’s best burger, in cheerfully, post-hippie dorm surroundings.”   I got into the barbecue sauce-on-cheeseburger habit back in my high school days, ordering the Rojo Burger at Chili’s.  I thought it was a classy move, but not everyone agreed, including my prom date. (btw, “Rojo” is the Spanish word for “impossible to get out of Taffeta”).

Bartley's Harvard Square

This place has a fun student vibe,  and I kept thinking I’d see Will Hunting sitting in the corner solving word problems.

Bartley's

I was on campus to speak about using comedy in social media to help put a face on the corporation.  Below is a short clip of my PowerPoint disaster.  And check our this review of Bartley’s from Billy Idol:

Yelp gives it 4.5 stars

Mr. Bartley’s

1246 Massachusetts Ave

Cambridge, MA

(617) 354-6559
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Conan O’Brien and Burger Joint

Behind a velvet curtain that reaches from the lobby floor up to the ceiling of the swankyLe Parker Meridien Hotel hides one of the best burger joints in Manhattan.  And it’s completely unmarked,  except for a neon sign of a burger.  So I had to save this spot for a special night — when Ian and I went to the Team Coco Tour at Radio City Music Hall.
Team Coco Tour

Burger Joint at Le Parker Meridien Hotel

Complimenting this juicy burger was a glass of the finest Cabernet Sauvignon available in Manhattan in a box.
Burger Joint

Here’s one of Ian’s recent productions. My favorite line in here (that Ian wrote on the spot) is “Violate: the color intermediate between red and blue.”

God Smacked
www.thedailyshow.com

Yelp gives it 4 out of 5 stars.
118 W 57th St, between 6th/7th Ave

About the Cheeseburger & Comedy series.