“Jerry Van Dyke Money”
Atlantic City Casinos were a hot spot for entertainment through the mid 70’s and 80’s until the late 90’s. I built a good name and got many of my opening opportunities there as an opening act, a comedy club comic, and as a comedy guest star of the big singer/dancer revue shows.
I was playing The Comedy Stop at the Tropicana when I get a callfrom the people at (then called) Trump’s Castle. I have worked for Trump numerous times including performing on his yacht (the one with he helicopter) for The Donald’s birthday, guest performing in his beauty pageants, and hosting several revue shows & high roller tournaments.
At that time the casino had a show playing called “Freddie Roman Live”, a Tonight Show format with guests, a couch and hosted by Catskills/Friar’s comedian Freddie Roman. That night their headlining guest was to be Jerry Van Dyke, brother of Dick Van Dyke who had finally made his mark in show business winning an Emmy for playing Luther Van Dam on ABC’s “Coach” with Craig T. Nelson.
Apparently Jerry was stuck in the snow coming down from Boston and it was very close to show time. Trumps wanted me to fill in. They offered to send a car for me so when I got off stage after the Trop’s first show, I’d be carted over to do show number one for Freddie Roman, then back and forth for show number two. I agreed and shared the information with the other club comics. The night’s headliner said that I should get Jerry Van Dyke’s paycheck. This planted a seed on the limo ride over. Did I have the balls to ask? Would they ever call me again? If they said no, do I stay and make some money anyway? If I leave, it’s money I wasn’t expecting to begin with.
I arrive backstage. The show is already underway when I am quietly greeted by the stage manager who grabs my show trunk and music and the entertainment director who shakes my hand and thanks me for coming.
The wardrobe mistress was ironing my jacket and de-linting me from the car ride. I was being mic’d when the director asks, “So, what do you want to for the gig?” I reply, “Well, I want what Jerry Van Dyke was going to get.”
He laughs. “I can’t do that.”
“Why not? You’re asking me to handle the spot and the check is cut already.”
I pause and say, “OK well, I understand. Thanks for the call and I hope we get to work together again soon. I love your guys.” I turn and start packing up.
Five minutes later, the stage manager walks up to me, “Michael, the E.D. says it’s handled and you’re good.”
I did the show, got a check for an amount I’ve never seen prior or since, and I never worked at that casino again! But to be fair, they changed their entertainment format to bands and music so I take little responsibility in that. I have seen that director in recent years and we are very happy to see each other and have a drink and a laugh.
Oh – the headlining comic at the Trop that planted the seed was Ray Romano.
A few years later Jerry and I did a New Years Eve show together for Trump. Jerry was so sweet and his family was beautiful. The funniest thing he did in his act was after a big voice over introduction of his accomplishments, the band would play him on with his brother’s TV show them song from the Dick Van Dyke Show. Jerry would turn red and throw a tantrum like a 5 year old with “Oh come on!!!” then storm off stage until the band coaxed him back. He knew he would never step out from his big brother’s shadow and only now was he OK with it and made fun of it.