GALLAGHER COUNTRY – PART 1 BY: ELIOT GLAZER
I should have known from the moment he picked up the phone, greeting me with his own infamous surname as if he were a front-desk receptionist, that this wasn’t going to be an ordinary interview.
If you’re like me, you’ll remember Gallagher as the ultimate 1980’s comic who haunted your dreams. Between the skin tight bellbottoms and the oversized furniture, the shrill, nasal timbre and his signature move–eviscerating food with a mallet–Gallagher built a career as one of the first comics to find popularity through cable specials (although I’m too young to have witnessed the HBO appearances, I can vaguely remember seeing Gallagher roller skating on VH1).
But it turns out that the guy is more than just a French beret and a sledgehammer. He’s a sixty-one year old father of one and resident of Los Angeles who continues touring the country performing stand-up comedy while simultaneously attempting to jumpstart separate careers as both a web entrepreneur and hotelier. In fact, his passion for these professional ventures is so strong that I barely got a word out of him regarding his career in comedy. No, Gallagher is much more interested in intimately venting his frustrations to a stranger because, in his own words, he’s “fucking pissed and ready to smash something.”
To his credit, Gallagher has a lot to be pissed about. America is preparing for a recession, our nameless soldiers continue to be wiped out overseas, and the public will soon face the mammoth task of electing into office someone who can successfully clean up Bush’s heaping piles of shit. Gallagher thinks things are looking pretty grim.
“I think I’m the authority on America,” he says, “I’m sixty-one years old and I’ve probably been around the States 25 times. I’ve got my finger on the pulse.”
Set to perform at New York’s Blender Theater at Gramercy on March 14, Gallagher doesn’t sound particularly excited to return to The Big Apple, perhaps because the last time he performed here was at a dinner theater in Elmsford, New Jersey (although I wasn’t about to deliver the news that Elmsford isn’t exactly “New York”). The explanation for his disinterest predictably stems from the frustration he experienced during his last visit, when “big fuckin’ deals” Donald Trump and Jim Cramer (of CNBC’s Mad Money) separately denied him private meetings. With Trump’s having “added show business [to his portfolio]” and Cramer calling himself “The Gallagher of Stocks” (Gallagher claims to have seen Cramer smash food on television without providing due credit), he is wildly offended that these two media figures would deny his request for a mere business lunch.
Gallagher is, in fact, a hungry businessman, one who believes he has the key to “strengthening America’s families” and “bettering our communities” by establishing a prospective hotel chain specializing in family reunions (he got the idea from watching My Big Fat Greek Wedding). With bedrooms built “in a round,” 40 Doors Resorts will provide a communal environment in which guests will be made to feel especially comfortable among oversized, childproof furniture, including a giant bed on which “Grandma can read stories to the kids… without having to worry” as a surrounding fence will prevent the children from tumbling off the sides. Even meals can be spruced up when everyone is seated at a table whose center–which Gallagher calls “wasted space”–is removed so that “the kids can crawl under the table, pop up in the middle and they’re your bouquet.” 40 Doors, Gallagher believes, could find worthwhile investors in image-conscious retired athletes, as it would provide them the opportunity to maintain a family-friendly reputation rather than “getting into trouble, meeting prostitutes and drug dealers.” (Are you listening, Mike Tyson?) Although 40 Doors wouldn’t function in the not-for-profit sector, Gallagher compares the hypothetical franchise to Paul Newman’s salad dressings, a business model that he claims proves the fiscal benefit of volunteerism. Simply put, if volunteers (“busybodies from church or Ryan’s Club…you know, Muscular Dystrophy”) invested their own time and effort into 40 Doors, they’d be guaranteed greater satisfaction than if they were to do so for “a car wash or a bake sale.” They would also, as Gallagher points out, save him money.
Stand-up comedians often get the chance to take the ultimate road trip while on tour. Whereas most hang out after a show at a local bar, Gallagher is likely to be found obsessively pursuing his business ventures.
“I pitched 40 Doors to the Indian tribes in Michigan. I told them they should open a family resort, so they put me in a truck and drove me away from the casino [where I’d performed], and they showed me where they have their get-togethers, their pow wows.”
Like the majority of what he said, I wasn’t sure where Gallagher was going with this.
“They took me out to the forest and showed me plumbing and electric that was coming out of the ground. In other words, they understand the need for community and get-togethers, but weren’t going to make it available to the White Man.”
I… still didn’t understand what he meant by that. But, to Gallagher, whether or not you understand him is unimportant. What matters is that you help him find money. And until you do, he won’t drop the sales pitch.
“Why doesn’t Disney do this? Universal? Six Flags? I’ll tell you why. It’s fear. People are afraid of doing something different. Frightful people in America. Can you believe that? In the land of leadership and creativity–we’re supposed to boldly go where no one’s gone before. I can’t believe it.”
Is it fear that has kept the public from snatching up Gallagher’s dreams of hotel management? Maybe. Or is it, as Gallagher himself points out, the ignorance of the selfish and wealthy?
“There are so many rich people in the world and there’s no reason anymore to donate money to make a library with your name on it,” he asserts, “because all that information is available on the Internet. We don’t need libraries anymore. Libraries are just for homeless people to get warm in.”
In fact, at sixty-one, Gallagher is surprisingly well versed in the language of Web 2.0. Aside from his own site, he is helming two others. Dance Pyramid – currently under construction – is a community where users can upload and vote on videos of themselves and others dancing. Smash My Face–also under construction–is an opportunity to combine mobile and Internet content that wouldn’t necessarily stave off the adolescent set. The concept is simple: take a picture of somebody and send it to the website, whereupon the subject’s face will be “mutilated” and returned to your phone. For example, says Gallagher, “If a little thirteen year old girl sees her boyfriend talking to a girl, she’ll want to put gum in his hair.” And with Smash My Face, she can do that–digitally. Simply put, says Gallagher, “There’s a lot of money in hatred.”
Indeed there is, Gallagher, indeed there is.
To Gallagher, the ideas of family and community are increasingly ignored by Americans. Perhaps his focus on the issue is a consequence of his estrangement from his own family, which occurred after his brother, Ron, began performing shows in his brother’s name. (Confused yet?) After an injunction was ordered against him, Ron was no longer allowed to perform as his brother. However, Gallagher’s family sided with Ron throughout the ordeal, and as a result, his relationship with his parents and siblings became strained. I, however, was warned by his publicist–in ALL CAPS, no less–that I was neither to ask Gallagher about this ordeal nor how he got started in comedy.
Luckily for me, Gallagher–without provocation–suddenly stumbled upon early memories of performing stand-up comedy at “out-of-the-way” clubs in Los Angeles, where–unlike at The Comedy Store, which he cites as an example–comedians weren’t known to pilfer each other’s material. But even then, when audiences and comedians alike understood and appreciated his unique brand of prop comedy, Gallagher couldn’t help but encounter colleagues who would soon find success coincidentally using props as well…
Stay tuned for Part 2 of Gallagher Country, the gripping conclusion featuring rare video clips, interview excerpts, and a look futher into the melon of the man with the melons.