Tuesday, December 13, 2016

"Free advice costs nothing, and it's worth the price" - Allan Sherman

One thing I like about REALLY old people is that they become REALLY honest!

Take Tony Bennett, if you will. The longtime saloon singer, born Anthony Dominick Benedetto 90 years ago, was a guest on NPR's "Fresh Air" not long ago, and the host, Terry Gross, asked him what could be the reason for the longevity of his career.

"Talent" was his one-word answer.  

Yes, it takes talent to stay popular in show business for over 65 years; Bennett's first hits came in 1950 - 51. That's a while.  And you know what?  There are plenty of singers just as good as Tony Bennett.  I'll daresay there are many, but he knows something that has kept him around a long long time.

He went on, in the radio interview, to tell Ms Gross that Jack Benny and Bob Hope (who advised him to change his name) gave him lots of advice in the early stages of his career. In fact, he said the best advice was telling him that it would take him a few years of knowing what to do before he learned the more important lessons - knowing what NOT to do.

I've told a million people, seven of whom actually wanted to hear it, that a great lesson I learned as a supervisor was that if you did a favor for one person, the others would not say, "Wowie! What a great guy he is!"  Nope.  What they said was, where is my slice of that pie, please.  And who can blame them?

One of the first things I learned in my lifetime of driving everything from cars to trucks to fire engines is that you can see an car approaching with its turn signal flashing and the driver's arm out of the car giving a back up signal.  I don't care if the driver hollers out the window "I'm turning here! Go ahead and pull out!" I'm not going anywhere until he/she clears the intersection...not that I mistrust my fellow drivers.  I just don't trust them, you see. I remember the sage words of my father, who taught me to assume that every other car on the road was being driven by a drunken sociopath, out to kill me.  

Half the time, he has been proven right.

Knowing what NOT to do pays off.  Frying an egg? Adding three more minutes of pan time is something to avoid. Speaking before a crowd? Don't keep speaking any longer, once you've seen two people stick out their wrists to check the time. Washing your brand new white polo shirt and your brand new blue jeans? Unless you want a periwinkle colored shirt, better make that two trips around the Maytag.

Take it from Steve Harvey <<< or Tony Bennett and me: two old men who will tell you, it doesn't matter if you're repairing a Singer sewing machine or trying to be a professional singer, knowing what NOT to do is something to do.

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