Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

It's funny that, for most of my adult life, I'd always wanted to have a place like Cheers, a local bar that I could go to where everybody knows your name.

I didn't find one that truly felt like "my Cheers" until I discovered The Winking Judge on Augusta Street in Hamilton. And the place only came onto my radar because I wrote about it in my 2012 book Haunted Hamilton. (Here is a video of me sharing some ghostly tales from the bar).

But not long after, and, particularly after I ended up moving into an apartment on the same block as that bar, practically "upstairs" from it (as I could look out my living room window down onto the back patio of the Judge), I became a regular there and everyone did know my name.

I was home.

Heck, Liz and I had our second date at The Winking Judge, and that was the date that pretty much clinched it for us. Actually, our first date, which had been at a brewery in Toronto a couple of weeks earlier, was quite awesome. But it was the second date that confirmed it hadn't just been a single spark moment of our first meeting.

Even after moving to Waterloo, I would still visit The Judge on almost every return visit to Hamilton. Because it was always so good to walk into a place where everybody knew you.

The song, written by Gary Portnoy and Judy Hart Angelo, has long been one of my favourites. And I love the entire song, not just the short snippet of lyrics that are used for the show's theme. (Heck, I bought the vinyl single of the song, with Portnoy's other great song "Jenny" on the flip side when I was in University and Cheers was still on the air)

These are the full lyrics for the song "Where Everybody Knows Your Name."

Making your way in the world today
Takes everything you've got;
Taking a break from all your worries
Sure would help a lot.
Wouldn't you like to get away?

All those night when you've got no lights,
The check is in the mail;
And your little angel
Hung the cat up by it's tail;
And your third fiance didn't show;

Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name,
And they're always glad you came;
You want to be where you can see,
Our troubles are all the same;
You want to be where everybody knows your name.

Roll out of bed, Mr. Coffee's dead;
The morning's looking bright;
And your shrink ran off to Europe,
And didn't even write;
And your husband wants to be a girl;

Be glad there's one place in the world
Where everybody knows your name,
And they're always glad you came;
You want to go where people know,
People are all the same;
You want to go where everybody knows your name.

Of course, since the global pandemic, I hadn't been able to get to The Winking Judge to fulfill that lifelong desire to hang out in a Cheers-like atmosphere.

But we do have a home bar.

And I had been making music parodies with Liz as well as silly Dad Joke short films on my own as a method of creative expression. One of those short dad joke films was called "The Things We Miss Most" and it featured me playing three different people sitting at a bar (my home bar) - in that film one of the Marks is wearing a Winking Judge hoodie. But making that short made me think that my home bar should have a name.

I made a joke sign that read "Mark's Tavern: Serving Marks Since 2020" and imagined it being a place where I could share some of the silly dad jokes - a consistent setting with recurring characters.

Not long after, I was reminded of my affinity for Cheers.

So I schemed up a song parody of one of the coolest songs in the universe as well as a scenario for Mark's Tavern.

Heck, I even went and bought a license for the two fonts used to create the Cheers logo (Candice and Flamenco), and spent some time crafting a logo that conjured up a similarity to the Cheers logo.

My re-written lyrics, which were set to piano from my friend and fellow writer, Joe Cron, went with the shortened version of the Cheers opening.

Getting through isolation times
Takes everything you've got
Having a laugh and a craft beer pint
Sure would help a lot
But you just can't get away

Sometimes you've got to go
Where everybody shares your name
And they're always spelled the same
You wanna laugh and see eyes roll
Where dad jokes are awful lame
You wanna go where everybody shares your name

And then I wrote a 1000 word script for a short episode, complete with cold opener, the title song, sequence, and a scene between Mark the bartender, Mark the new patron, and the Norm-style Mark who was the main regular.

I shot most of it in a single evening, but once I got through just the opener bit, I realized how much work it was, so I cut the entire episode down to what was supposed to be the opener. As it was, it was six minutes. But still a heck of a lot of fun.

Because I got to tell a few jokes, parody a classic sitcom, and show off a picture of me having a beer with Norm (or rather, George Wendt, who played the loveable barfly on the series)

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Music Parody of "Fever"

The other day I made a short video on how to pronounce Lefebvre.

I couldn't resist adding in a joke at the end about the funny ways people mis-pronounce my actual surname. (This blog is under "Mark Leslie" the name I use for most of my writing).

One of the comments on a share of that video used the "Lefever" version of the name.

And for some reason, I got the old Peggy Lee song "Fever" stuck in my head.

Which lead to writing parody style lyrics to the song.

Which then lead to the recording of the song.

Which then lead to the music video.

You might say that I sometimes get a fever and the only curse is not necessarily more cowbell, but it's actually turning that creative energy into a project meant to make people laugh.

I learned that the song was actually written by Eddie Cooley and Otis Blackwell and was originally recorded by American R&B singer Little Willie John in for his 1956 debut album, Fever.  Peggy Lee covered it a couple of years later and it remains the most notable cover of the song.

Of course, Elvis Presley also covered the song - and it was his vocal styling I was attempting to reach when I made my own parody music video.

My pal Julie Strauss, her husband, and daughter, and a couple of their friends quickly recorded silly mispronunciations of my name that I used for the video's opening.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Virtual Guide Ghost Walk (Safe Social Distancing)

Last summer I wrote and produced, with the help of the awesome people at VoiceMap (who create immersive GPS audio tours), a ghost walk of downtown Hamilton, Ontario.

The stories for this tour were drafted out of files of research I had compiled to write the book Haunted Hamilton, which was released in 2012 and was nominated for a Hamilton Literary Award.

The half hour route can be purchased through the free VoiceMap app on virtually any smartphone device, and takes you through central downtown Hamilton and includes several interesting downtown locations, historic landmarks, dark history and fascinating ghostly tales certain to bring you a few shivers.

This tour begins at The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry building located at 200 James Street North, in Hamilton, Ontario. It takes you south down James Street, and past the sites of the Hamilton SuperCrawl, the historic Tivoli Theatre, Gore Park, the Royal Connaught, the former Wentworth County Courthouse and jail, Hamilton Club, Whitehern Mansion, The GO Station, The Pheasant Plucker, and The Winking Judge. Tales involve ghosts at these locations, as well as Hamilton's connection to Jack the Ripper, the Torso Murders, and Hamilton as a location for the filming of horror movies, including one from a Stephen King novel.

I've long been a fan of historic ghost walk tours. In fact, much of the research for this book was thanks to the good folks from Haunted Hamilton and Ghost Walks. I highly recommend their tours and events to people, and continue to be a huge fan of the work they do.

But what happens when you want to explore a historic haunted locale and the timing for the official tours don't jibe with your own schedule, or perhaps the tour is sold out?

Of course, during these more recent times of physical distancing, social distancing, and avoiding hanging out in groups, a virtual tour like this allows you the option to explore those same locations on your own, at your own convenience.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

How to Pronounce Lefebvre

I have long written under the name Mark Leslie because of the fact that most people don't know how to spell or pronounce Lefebvre.

However, because I've been a book industry representative and part of the speaking circuit on a regular basis for well over a decade now, my actual surname is used. I also have a number of books (with more to come) about the business of writing and publishing published under my full name Mark Leslie Lefebvre.

One of the many things I have learned from the awesome folks at CAPS (Canadian Association of Professional Speakers), is to add a pronunciation key into the bio you provide to the folks running the conference/workshop/keynote address that you are speaking at. This helps ensure the person introducing you can easily pronounce your name.

I also thought it might be handy to create a brief video that helps explain how to pronounce Lefebvre.

I could not, of course, resist adding a little humor to it.

Because that's also part of my brand.

Under Attack

I've been having fun making short videos inspired by stupid dad jokes.

The first "action spoof" one that I've done is a short called Under Attack: A Stupid Dad Joke Short Film.

I've also long been a fan of the movie Die Hard, so I thought it might be fun to make a silly thumbnail for the YouTube video in the style of the movie posters from that film.

The "film" is just a little over 1 minute long. Just long enough to set the scene, and then make you rolls your eyes.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Demonic Dolls, Screaming Skulls, and Other Haunted Objects

I'm currently soliciting stories for a book that I'm working on.

This is the cover.

I plan on releasing this book in the fall of 2020.

I already have a file folder stuffed with a bunch of tales that I have collected over the years. But I'm looking for new ones to add to what I already have.

If you have a tale to share, feel free to let me know by using this handy online form

Friday, June 05, 2020

Hey Bartender

Last week a new single and accompanying single was released by a talented musician from my hometown of Sudbury, Ontario.

Ashley Joanisse is a Canadian singer-songwriter of country and pop music.

Her new single is called HEY BARTENDER.

I love how she did the video, duplicating herself to be both the patron and the bartender.

But she also used images sent in from other musicians, friends, and even strangers like me.

It's a great song and hilarious video.

But be careful, it might just inspire you to ask to have another drink poured.

Monday, June 01, 2020

Coast to Coast AM with George Noory - Haunted Hospitals

I'm pretty pumped to be returning as a guest to Coast to Coast AM with George Noory.

Coast to Coast AM airs on more than 600 stations in the U.S., as well as Canada, Mexico and Guam, and is heard by nearly three million weekly listeners. With hosts George Noory, George Knapp (weekend), and guest weekend hosts, it is the most listened to overnight radio program in North America.

A media phenomenon, Coast to Coast AM deals with UFOs, strange occurrences, life after death, and other unexplained (and often inexplicable) phenomena. Coast to Coast AM is overnight talk radio with daytime ratings.

The show I'll be on runs three hours and airs from midnight to 3 AM Eastern on Friday June 5, 2020.