Do it for Johnny…
Do it for Johnny…
I’m off to my favorite city on the planet, Houston, TX in about 5 hours, and believe me I could use some fun. I’ve had a really fucked up week, with my brother in law’s cousin, a guy I’ve known since I was 14 dying of an overdose, my dad’s best friend dying in a car crash, and one of my best friends in the world, a true American original named Johnny B. dying of an aneurysm at the tender age of 33.
Life can be one fleeting thing, and it’s always so fucking bizarre when someone passes, especially if that someone is somebody you expected to spend the rest of your life hanging around with. I always thought Johnny and I would be pals till we were old men, sitting around drinking wine and laughing about shit. Now all I have to remember him by is and old photo of him playing pool and a tape of some music that he sent me recently.
That, and lots, and lots of great fucking memories.
Johnny was truly one of the most unique human beings I have ever met in my life, and with the possible exception of my man Joey Diaz, I don’t think I have ever met I guy that was such an original. Johnny was a pool hustler when I met him in 1992. That’s actually how he made his living, gambling and pretending he played pool just bad enough to get "suckers" to think that they could beat him. It wasn’t a great living by any stretch of the imagination, and sometimes it wasn’t a living at all, but Johnny wasn’t really suited for a whole lot of occupations. He had very little education, no marketable skills, and he had a drug problem. He was a fucking great pool player though, and as long as he could make money doing that, the chances of him getting a real job were slim to none. I’ve always said that in life we do things that are difficult, whether it’s martial arts, or chess, or anything else, because we’re trying to tap into our human potential. We’re really trying to find out something that we can use as a vehicle to elevate our thoughts and experiences. Something that shows what many of us think: That we have something special. We want to express this amazing energy that we have inside, this extreme emotion, this creative hurricane that beats against the inside walls of our skulls. We want everyone to feel what we are feeling. We want to breathe that rare air.
Johnny… did it with pool.
He could do things with the game of pool that were truly amazing. When he was "on" it was genius. Pure unquestionable genius, and a true expression of the powerful and unique energy that is the essence of what makes some people special. His concentration was like a laser beam, and as he walked around the table his eyes gleamed like a madman. He made the ball move to his will, he made shots that would leave spectators shaking their heads in amazement. There is a feeling that you get when you witness someone truly special. When you see something that is just on another level. It’s the infectious indescribable energy that elevates all that witness it.
It’s the truest expression of the human spirit, and I felt it when I used to watch Johnny play.
But not only was Johnny great the game, but he had style. He had a completely original way about him that I could never do justice with words alone. People couldn’t wait to see him play, and crowds would gather around the table whenever he did. Johnny had dreams of being a pro some day and going out on the tour, but for many reasons that never happened. For one thing he was a little crazy. Not crazy like a guy that does wild things, but crazy like a guy who’s mind just does not quite work like everyone else’s. He had a lot of things going on in his head, and not all of them he liked. He self medicated, heavily and often. Sometimes with the light stuff, but often times with the hard. He was arrested quite a few times while I knew him, and more than once they deemed him insane and checked him into a mental hospital. One time during one of his extended stays Johnny called me long distance to tell me this story:
He and the other patients were watching TV and Newsradio came on. Johnny told them:
"Hey, my boy’s on this show!"
"Oh yeah, you know someone on TV?"
"Yeah, he’s one of my best friends!"
"Which one is he?"
"He’s coming, I let you know when it’s him…"
Well… I did 98 episodes of Newsradio, and only ONCE was I completely edited from the final show, and THIS was the one time. I only had 2 small scenes in this episode, and they didn’t really work with the rest of the show, so they were edited out.
The credits roll at the end of the show, and all the crazy people in the mental institution turned on Johnny.
"Yeah, you got a friend on TV, sure. Man, you best go up to the medicine counter and get your pills, you crazy mother fucker."
Johnny said it was the funniest thing he had ever seen in his life. Here he was sitting there in a nuthouse with paper slippers on, trying to convince a bunch of total fucking wackos that he REALLY had a friend on TV.
He could barely get the story out to me on the phone he was laughing so hard.
That’s one of the one things I’m gonna miss the most about Johnny, his laugh. That motherfucker would really, really laugh. He had more laughs in his 33 years of life than any 5 men would in 80. Life is a tragedy to those who feel, and a comedy to those that think. That’s an old quote from someone, I forget who, but soooo appropriate when it came to Johnny. He thought everything was funny. From the way insecure guys would act around their girlfriends, to the way some black guys would be willing to date the homeliest white women just because they were white. Everything was funny to Johnny, every flaw of human nature, every predictable reaction from every simple mind would leave him laughing hysterically. I used to LOVE bringing him to my comedy shows, and I couldn’t wait to hear what he had to say about my new stuff. I could be on stage in a room with 200 people laughing their asses off, and I could still hear Johnny’s booming laugh in the back of the room.
Johnny and I had more fun hanging out together than any 2 guys can ever ask for, and I cherish those memories more than almost anything in life. In honor of my friend, from now on for the rest of my life, anytime I go on stage in the future if you catch me walking up towards the stage you’ll see my lips move as I’m talking to myself. And if you see it, and you can read lips, you’ll see I’ll be saying:
"Do it for Johnny"
Rest in peace, my friend.