Tag Archives: Calvin Wynter

Edinburgh Fringe, Day 11: The gamut of comedy and the Grouchy Club’s origins

Today, in three shows, I saw  the whole gamut of Fringe comedy.

There was the gloriously fluent Richard Todd at The Counting House.

He was letting rip at full volume with waving hands, bouncing hair and waterfalls and tsunamis of sentences overflowing with his love of the English language while talking about Monsters within himself and people in general.

There was Narin Oz stripping off as a Dirty Woman in a basement room at The Cuckoo’s Nest.

She was having garden soil thrown at her, splashing water on herself and performing with a video of waterfalls behind her while getting (in a good theatrical way) hysterical.

And there was Samantha Pressdee going Back 2 Basics at 48 Below.

She was telling a very personal autobiographical story which turned into someone’s death and a political point.

That is a pretty good Fringe format – laughs, tears, emotional problems and occasional politics.

I was also a guest on the penultimate day of Vladimir McTavish’s chat show in the Lounge of The Counting House.

On Monday, feared Scotsman comedy critic & Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards judge Kate Copstick and I take over Vlad’s 1415-1515 slot for The Grouchy Club from 14th to 27th August.

As previously mentioned in this blog, if you got it, flaunt it.

The Grouchy Club is free to say anything you like, free to enter, free to leave. Unlike most ‘free’ shows, there is no bucket for money at the end. It a genuinely free Free show.

The original idea came from a chat with the late US promoter Calvin Wynter. He and I thought it might be good to have a Fringe space unconnected with any one venue, where performers could come and relax and gossip and bitch without fear of punters. A sort of Groucho Club for the less exalted echelons of creatives. I suggested calling it The Grouchy Club.

Calvin Wynter had talked of a Fringe club

That idea came to nought.

But I have chaired two or three chat shows at the Fringe over the years and an idea I had was to do a show where I did nothing, not even research the background of guests.

I am not a performer.

Most stand-ups begin their acts with a little bit of audience interaction, a little bit of banter with the audience.

I believe that almost every person is fascinating. If you choose the third person in a bus queue in Northampton or chat to the first person wearing brown shoes – in other words, any totally random person – and talk to them, they will have outrageously unlikely anecdotes from their unique life.

So I thought: Have a chat show where the guests are the audience. Just chat to the audience. But then I thought: This needs a performer sidekick. Who?

Lewis Schaffer did not bestow his blessings

Until last year, almost all Lewis Schaffer shows extended the traditional opening banter with the audience to 100% of the show.

So I asked Lewis Schaffer to co-present The Grouchy Club with me.

But Lewis Schaffer is nothing if not occasionally indecisive.

So, in lieu of him actually saying Yes, I went for opinionated Scotsman comedy critic Kate Copstick. But, with her on board, I thought it would be more interesting to talk to comedy industry (and other creative) people. To have somewhere creative people could have a chat. It would still be a chat show where the audience were the guests, but the guests would mostly be performers and their ilk (club owners, promoters etc).

If any genuine members of the public wander in, that’s OK. But, because we are not really aiming it at members of the public, we can dispense with a Fringe Programme listing (saving £300-£400) and flyers/posters. Just use social media and word of mouth.

So here we are.

And we are happy for performers to do BRIEF extracts from their shows to get constructive or destructive criticism from the audience and suck up to Copstick (the most influential comedy critic on the Fringe) and me (“The Boswell of the alternative comedy scene” (Chortle) – eat shit.)

There is a Grouchy Club website but, technology being technology, it is being temporarily temperamental during the Fringe. So you can access it but I can’t change anything!

Chaos and anarchy.

That’s the true spirit of the Fringe.

It is much to be encouraged.

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Memories of producer Calvin Wynter

Calvin Wynter

Calvin – as remembered by Fringe-goers

Fringe producer Calvin Wynter’s funeral was in New York at the weekend.

Below is a piece written by a performer who was there. 

But, before that, here is what Julian Caddy, who co-founded the Sweet venues at the Edinburgh Fringe, posted on his Facebook page on 4th November:


I am shocked to hear of the sudden death of Calvin Wynter, Director of Inbrook, creator of the Brooklyn Fringe. He was a regular in my and many other people’s Edinburgh life for over a decade. I always enjoyed our chats and we programmed several of his shows at Sweet over the years, most memorable being that extraordinary Jacques Brel show (you’ll remember it well if you were there).

Calvin when he was younger

Calvin when he was younger and a bit hairier

I will always remember his ability to seemingly have no sleep whatsoever. He had local Skype phone numbers all across the world before anyone else did and you could call him at any time, day or night, and he would always pick up, or he would be calling you, any time you like – or not like!

At Edinburgh Fringe he was a fixture at every promoter’s event and VIP bar, always there with the height of professionalism and politeness. We used to joke about him being like a mafia boss with his sharp suits, softly spoken New York accent and entourage. He was a man who made sure that he knew everyone and that everyone knew him.

Calvin with his 2nd wife Joelle

Calvin seen relaxing with his second wife Joelle

But I think we never really knew him closely. Then again I get the impression that here was a man who lived for his work and for whom not giving 100% would always be regarded as being inadequate: work-life balance was an anathema. So I guess that means he was definitely one of us. The Fringe crowd, who with a look, a nod, just know what it’s like.

Rest in peace buddy.


Now the piece by someone who attended his funeral:


The funeral was small, but nice. Hard to believe such a large man could fit in that urn. Still don’t know the cause of death. I imagine something was written on the death certificate, but his cousin said they don’t really know what befell him. I didn’t go to the interment. Didn’t know how to get to Flushing Cemetery, which is, apparently, a very attractive place. Louis Armstrong and other luminaries are buried there, as are Calvin’s parents. I may make my way out there sometime this week to pay my respects directly.

Calvin Wynter (second from right)

Young Calvin at college in 1977 (second from right) aged 18

An older cousin said he was The Last of the Wynters. She named all the Wynters of their time, the final generation or two. Hearing of his childhood breadth and derring do was instructive.

Sounded both more believable and more impressive than when he told of it.

Childhood and beyond – world traveler, some kind of target shooter, skeet shooter or something I believe, science buff, went to Bronx Science high school, later on a skydiver. Some of his Wall Street colleagues were there. He was a large figure to them. They all talked about how shocking it was when they first saw “theater Cal.”

I met his first wife, the one who, he said, expected to be a politician’s wife and was perfect for it. She did, indeed, look the part. I liked his ex-wife very much. She was surprised he spoke of her, which he did fairly frequently, when it was relevant, and always positively.

Truth is, however, I had forgotten she existed until she turned up at the funeral because it was such a different life she represented than the one I knew.

Calvin Wynter and Jay Amato

Calvin Wynter playing around with his friend Jay Amato

He referred to his friend Jay Amato as his brother. I assumed it was his biological brother he was talking about so, when I met Jay and he was this white guy, I was very surprised.

A delegation of Freemasons was there to acknowledge the loss of someone from their ranks.


The photos on this page were supplied by Jay Amato, who knew Calvin for the last 44 years. He tells me:

“There are many different looks, but they are all Calvin.”

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Theatre producer Calvin Wynter died. Here he gives his own view of himself.

Calvin Wynter: no hair, but a big Fringe

Calvin Wynter(1959-2015)

After yesterday’s blog about the death of Calvin Wynter last Thursday, I thought it might be interesting to post his own view of himself. He ran a fringe/off-Broadway theatrical promotion and production company called Inbrook in New York City.

Below is his own description of himself as part of that company.

Below that is an excerpt from a blog I wrote about him three years ago in November 2012 in which, again, he speaks about himself.


INBROOK

As Chairman & CEO of Inbrook, Calvin Wynter seeks to provide effective oversight and management of the company.

Calvin is an accredited promoter for Adelaide Fringe and The Edinburgh Festival Fringe. He is a judge and industry panelist for The Boston Comedy Festival, New York Comedy Competition and The New York Underground Comedy Festival. Calvin is a regular panelist on the Midtown International Theatre Festival symposiums.

His theatre experience includes being Managing Partner & Artistic Director at 45 Bleecker Theatre. His team renovated, owned and operated 45 Bleecker Theatre that included two Off­Broadway Theatres The Green Room Theatre (150 seats), Bleecker Street Theatre (320 seats) with café and art gallery at 45 Bleecker Street in New York City. Calvin was Artistic Director & Managing Partner for The Green Room Venue. His organization restored, owned and operated this landmark 300 year old former church. The Green Room Venue (100 seats, 60 seats and 40 seats with two in performance space bars, café, art gallery and VIP lounge.) was located at 37 Guthrie Street in Edinburgh, Scotland. Calvin as Managing Director renovated and launched commercial productions at Gene Frankel Theatre (72 seats with lounge) at 24 Bond Street in New York City.

Previously, Calvin was a Managing Director of Corporate Finance at Lehman Brothers, a Vice President at Merrill Lynch in Equity Trading, and was Senior Managing Partner at the investment firm Scarborough & Company, Inc.

His social activism is chronicled in Black Corona the non­fiction best­seller. Calvin serves on the board of the Bleecker Street Opera as the Artistic Advisor.

Calvin studied acting with John Strasberg, member of the Strasberg family, well known for coaching such luminaries as Al Pacino and Marilyn Monroe.

Calvin Wynter graduated with an A.B. from Colgate University, was an exchange student at Université de Genève, attended Georgetown University, received a Regents & Bronx High School of Science diploma and graduated from Joseph Pulitzer Middle School Honors Program.


Calvin Wynter (bottom left) looks at the Green Room venue in Edinburgh, 2007

Calvin Wynter (bottom left) looks at the Green Room venue on Edinburgh’s Cowgate in 2007

SO IT GOES BLOG – 27th November 2012

I think I first met US promoter/publicist Calvin Wynter at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2007, when he was involved in opening the new Green Room Venue, but he had been going there since 2004.

Yesterday, he told me: “I went to school in Geneva for a year and I had no idea the Edinburgh Fringe existed. My parents were avid theatre-goers and we were travelling to Europe almost every summer, but they had no idea the Edinburgh Fringe existed. When I was made aware that Edinburgh was the place to go then, in 2004, I went over with five shows. All sold out, were critically-acclaimed and one won the Richard Pryor Award. The following year, Richard Pryor’s daughter went over with us with six other shows.

“Now we’ve taken 135 shows to Edinburgh and we’ve done 250 shows worldwide. We’ve been at 50 festivals worldwide and toured 120 cities.”

And now, through his company Inbrook (of which I am an alleged creative consultant) he is staging his very own Fringe Festival – the Brooklyn Fringe, running 12th-21st July next year in New York.

“Are you getting any money from the local council?” I asked.

“This is the American Dream,” said Calvin. “You go out. You focus on being the best. And you are able to create something that serves the public need. It’s a team of performers and creatives that also – almost all of us – have backgrounds in the financial industry. We do it in such a way that it’s self-sufficient. We can’t depend on government. Arts funding has been cut throughout the United States. We are not dependent on public funding or donations or grants. As we see government and foundation funding evaporate… we just create a business model that works for all.”

“Your background is Wall Street,” I said.

“I retired 12 years ago, when I was 40 years old. I don’t need the money. I want to be creative. I want to help artists to grow.

“I was a performer as a child. Even when I was a baby, I was in a commercial for milk. But, when it came time for career selection, I ended up going to Wall Street and, just before I left Wall Street, I found out that I had – without my knowledge – been hiring actors, dancers, comedians. Every member of my staff was in not only one but the three major unions in the United States. Even in the case of members of staff from Britain, they were in British Equity.

“I had been unconsciously surrounding myself  with performers. So it was natural when one said You should pursue this that I went, in less than 90 days, from taking three acting classes to being in one off-Broadway show, in rehearsals for another, doing indie films at the weekend and setting up a production company that would go on to be nominated for a Drama Desk Award in less than 18 months. I leased a theatre – the Gene Frankel Theatre – renovated it, started putting on productions.”

“You were an actor?” I asked.

“I was an actor, a singer and dancer. I’ve just got back from producing a show in Amsterdam, scouting theatres in Berlin for touring and being taken to Prague to consult on a musical that was in a 1,000 seat theatre.”

“So you are an actor, singer and dancer who turned producer, promoter and publicist?”

“In one instance,” said Calvin, “we were even involved in producing a show in a car. Two actors in the fronts seats, two audience members in the back. Whether it’s an elevator, a boiler room, a toilet or a 1,000 seat theater we want to see Art.”

“And a businessman,” I added.

“Brooklyn Fringe venue registration applications are due by Monday, 28 January 2013,” Calvin told me.

“And a salesman,” I added.

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The death and funeral of theatre producer Calvin Wynter in New York

Calvin Wynter: no hair, but a big Fringe

Calvin Wynter RIP (25 November 1959 – 30 October 2015)

On 16th September this year, I posted a blog headed:

PIT BULL DOG ATTACKS CALVIN WYNTER, THEATRE PRODUCER, IN NEW YORK CITY

That blog ended:

“I’m headed off right now,” Calvin told me, “to have my teeth cleaned and also they did a biopsy on my jawbone. They performed dental surgery, removed the lesion and put it in for biopsy research. They called me on Friday which means I think I may have cancer. I don’t know. So far, everything that’s thought to have been cancerous was not – like the polyps I got from my colonoscopy. I had three polyps. No cancer. So who knows? Maybe the third time isn’t so good but, y’know look – I’ve had a shaved head before. I can have a shaved head again. I’m still Episcopalian, which is like your Church of England, but my philosophy is Buddhist which is essentially: What do we seek? Happiness. What is pain and sorrow? The route to happiness.”

Calvin Wynter wearing a yellow rubber glove this morning

Calvin Wynter when he talked to me in September via Skype

The following day, 17th September, I blogged:

Calvin has now to come back to say: “My jawbone lesion is benign… Yay!”

On 24th October, ten days ago, knowing I was going to be talking in London to US performer Penny Arcade, I asked Calvin if he could give me any background.

His replied included this:

Went under oral surgery to remove the lesion on my jaw and the bone graft from my thigh on Wednesday. I will be able to speak on Monday. Thank God I have experience at being silent. Thank you John for giving sometime to leave experience. Best wishes with your interview. – Cal

He also e-mailed me this selfie of himself headed: ‘Post Oral Surgery’

CalvinWynter_PostOralSurgery_24october

I replied: Holy shit! You look like a cartoon Godfather with one of those very high 1940s formal collars! Blog currently not happening because WordPress are fuck-ups…

His response was: Hahaha… Best wishes with your blog app.

I replied: If you want to tell me about your experience (preferably on Skype – but you might not want to actually talk too much!) just let me know when.

Calvin Wynter in 1977

Calvin Wynter in 1977

He told me: Thanks for the offer, but I can’t speak until Monday. Slow healing process.

I replied: Oh, yes, I meant after that. I doubt if I will have sorted the blog out until Tuesday.

His response was: Perfect timing.

That was the last I heard from him.

Tonight, I received an e-mail from a mutual friend in New York City. It read:

Calvin as a child with his father

Calvin Wynter – happy as a child with his father

I’m sorry to have to tell you that Calvin died last Thursday night. I don’t know specifics, 

I was hoping you could announce Calvin’s passing and the arrangements to the community over there via your blog.

The funeral will be 5.00 pm on Friday the 6th November at Cobbs Funeral Home in East Elmhurst (Queens), NY. Interment Saturday morning at 10 am. He is being interred with his parents at Flushing Cemetery. 

So it goes.

The anniversary of his birth is in three weeks time.

Calvin Wynter (25 November 1959 – 30 October 2015)

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Six degrees of separation from Lou Reed

Calvin Wynter wearing a yellow rubber glove this morning

Calvin Wynter was getting medical results in yesterday’s blog

Yesterday’s blog ended with New York theatre producer Calvin Wynter saying: “They called me on Friday which means I think I may have cancer. I don’t know. So far, everything that’s thought to have been cancerous was not – like the polyps I got from my colonoscopy. I had three polyps. No cancer. So who knows? Maybe the third time isn’t so good but, y’know look – I’ve had a shaved head before.”

Calvin has now to come back to say: “My jawbone lesion is benign… Yay!”

In a blog during the Edinburgh Fringe, I mentioned rock star Lou Reed, as portrayed  in the show Transformer. The Fringe show was performed as if in Max’s Kansas City club, New York, in the 1970s. I asked him if he had ever seen Lou Reed perform live:

Calvin Wynter in 1977

Calvin Wynter in 1977

“I was a teenager going to Bronx Science,” Calvin told me, “living in Queens and spending most of my waking hours in Manhattan. Max’s Kansas City was always an allure. You could drink at 18 in NYC at the time and I was 17 with a very good fake ID. So, when I heard the musicians’ musician, Lou Reed, was playing that night at Max’s, I thought: School work be damned! and, ID in hand, two subway tokens and a few bucks in my pocket, I went to see live what I had heard on vinyl so many times before that the grooves were worn out and I had had to buy a second album of Transformer.

Lou Reed's Transformer album

Lou Reed’s Transformer album, released 1972

“In performance, Lou Reed was dark and foreboding which captured the energy of New York City of the 1970s. His beat combined with superb lyrics strung together shards of life, glittering dark and sharp. There was very little movement in his performance, but I and the rest of the audience were moved and moving. Lou Reed was simply so good! You were cheek to jowl, but Lou made you feel like you were in your own bubble and only he could pierce it and touch you. By the way, the steak at Max’s Kansas City was great!”

I also, almost inevitably, asked New York-born, UK-based comedian Lewis Schaffer.

Lou Reed in 1986 (Photo Steven Toole

Lou Reed performs in East Rutherford, New Jersey, 1986 (Photograph by Steven Toole)

“No, I missed Lou Reed,” he told me. “One summer I lived around the corner across from Andy Warhol’s studio on Broadway and I went into Max’s once but the Velvet Underground were long gone. Weirdly, the drummer from the Velvets – Billy Yule – lived on the corner of the very leafy street in Great Neck I grew up on… in a run-down house with a small fish pond in the yard which I envied as a child. I thought the place was haunted.”

Six degrees of separation, indeed.

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Pit bull dog attacks Calvin Wynter, theatre producer, in New York City

Calvin Wynter wearing a yellow rubber glove this morning

Calvin Wynter wearing a yellow rubber glove this morning

This morning, I Skyped theatre producer Calvin Wynter in New York City. He used to be an equity trader on Wall Street. We had not chatted for a while. I thought it would be interesting to hear how the comedy business is going in New York.

As is often the case, the conversation got sidetracked.

He had suggested I Skype him at 11.30am, UK time, so I did.

“It’s 6.30am in the morning in New York,” I said.

“I’m up at 6.00am five days of the week,” he told me, “and 4.00am on two days.”

“Why?” I asked.

“This time last year, I went to Vipassana, a Buddhist retreat. We don’t burn incense, we don’t wear flowers, we don’t wear diapers; we just sit in our regular clothes. If you can do the lotus position, fantastic. If you can’t, you sit in a chair.”

“You’re wearing a yellow rubber glove and a sling round your neck,” I observed.

“This is me after wrist and arm surgery.”

“Why?”

“Between Wall Street and now, I spent way too much time on the computer and so I didn’t get carpal tunnel syndrome but I got some sort of pinched nerves. I ended up in hospital last year and a neurosurgeon noticed something, asked me to do a few things and said: Do you need an orthopaed referral? I said: No, as it happens, when I was attacked by the pit-bull, I got a… because, when you get your hands chewed on, they either call in a plastic surgeon or an orth and when you have your hands and leg and thigh bit away – like a 3 or 4 inch piece of my thigh was bitten away, the fat and skin…

“So I told him this and he then brought in a specialist. They did the test and then they ordered me a brace for a month but I went back and said: Look, you give the brace to most people because most people are afraid to go into surgery. You do it for them, they get a little better, it gives you time for them to get to trust you and then you do the surgery. He said: Yes. So I said: Just do the fucking surgery. And, in less than a week, he did the surgery.”

“I think,” I said. “I missed a link there. It was the bit where you said: when I was attacked by the pit-bull.”

“You didn’t know about that?”

“No. I have a shit memory, but even I would have remembered that.”

“OK. Well, this time last year – end of August, beginning of September – at the Vipassana retreat, I decided: Let’s lose a little weight. They feed you three meals a day. You got a choice of vegan and/or vegetarian and they’re delicious. You’re not starving. But I decided, because I was 245 lbs… I went through the three meals and measured out what was the amount of food you’re supposed to eat at the size I wanted to be. And I did hours and hours of walking. You’re in the country: streams, lakes, trees, all that stuff. And you’re doing chores when you’re not doing ten hours a day of meditation. After ten days, I lost 10 lbs. Then I lost another 10 lbs.

“So I lose all this weight, I’m dehydrated and I get the equivalent of the worst migraine I’ve ever had and I’ve never had a migraine – or maybe I’ve got a brain aneurism. So I’m rushed to the hospital. They perform every test possible and send me home thinking it’s a migraine and give me a strong Tylenol.

“When I call my doctor, she says: No, no. I want you to get some Aceterin. The next day, it gets really bad. So I think: If two pills are good, I’m gonna take four. Then six. I overdose. I start hallucinating. I mean, you know like Fantasia? I see a musical that I will create one day that will become the gold standard of musicals.

“But, in New York City, you never tell the doctors in the emergency room that you are hallucinating because they will put you on the psych ward and hold you for 72 hours. And, if they don’t have a psych ward, they will transfer you to one and the No 1 psych ward they like to transfer you to is Bellevue which is essentially like Bedlam in the UK.

“I remember a comedian I knew who won the big award in Edinburgh – he went to the British equivalent because he wrote his name in faeces on his wall. You know who I’m talking about.

“Anyway, I’m back in hospital again. They admit me. For six hours I tell them: I will NOT take any opiates. I was in so much pain they wanted to give me morphine and codeine. Not oxy cotton. No, they were going for like the strongest friggin’ pain pills they could give me. Finally, after six hours, I am told: We will have you committed if you don’t take it, because – you don’t know this, but – you are curled up in a ball in the corner of the bed. You are sweating profusely, you’re shaking, you’re mumbling and, every once in a while, you scream out so loud we can hear you down the hall.”

“And so…?” I asked.

“So I take the damned opiates,” Calvin told me. “And, after three days of taking them, it did lower the pain, but there was still excruciating pain. In the interim, they find my kidneys are now in renal failure and I had a macro pituitary adenoma. In other words, I had a tumour that was 1 centimetre in diameter at the centre of my head, right about where all the nerve endings are for your eyes, pushing back on my pituitary.

“Day Three of all this, I say: Fuck it! I get consciousness for a moment and I meditate solidly for an hour. You just observe and, for some reason, I kept observing one of my teeth up top and I remembered I was told to have the tooth removed but my insurance would not do an implant. Somewhere along the line, I forgot about that.

“So they remove the tooth and the headache is gone. So now they are working on my kidneys. They changed the meds. After ten days, I lose 10 lbs and I go out. So I had lost 10 lbs there and 20 lbs at the Vipassana retreat.

“Fast forward to May. I walk out of my door, I see a 98 lb woman who I later find out is a 28-year-old from Hawaii, half-Japanese, had never owned a dog before, was in New York City for the first time ever and had rescued this dog which was going to be killed the next day because it was too dangerous. She agreed to have a trainer, spent a lot of time with it before she took it home.

“I see that the dog is acting like an idiot. I make a sharp right turn. I meditate to calm my body so the dog doesn’t sense anything. It’s a pit bull. The dog leaps up. I shoot my left hand to block it.

“My cousin had been the national karate champion before Chuck Norris. My cousin was bodyguard to David Bowie, Mick Jagger right around the time hijackings were happening and celebrities were not able to bring their licensed gun-carrying bodyguards on planes with them.

“So I had lived with my cousin for a month. He had told me: If someone threatens you, you can talk to them for a while – you’re good at that – then you can run like the wind and very few people can catch you. The only time you need to fight is if the son-of-a-bitch catches you, which means he has nothing but ill-intent. Which means you have to kill him. One fast fell swoop. I’m going to teach you to kill people and, in the last week, I’m going to teach you how to kill dogs. With dogs, you break their nose; you jam it into their head; it’s a matter of seconds: they’re dead on the floor.

“Thirty years ago, pit bulls were not a problem. People owned German Shepherds, Doberman Pinschers. They didn’t have pit bulls. A pit bull’s entire skull is like a biker’s helmet. You can’t break its nose and shove it into its skull.  The one thing you’re supposed to do with pit bulls is you grab them by the balls and you swing them in the air and neuter them. You bang ‘em in the eye, go straight for their balls, lift them and fucking castrate them right then and there. They will be in so much pain, bleeding profusely and you can get away.

“But I had a bitch… a female dog, right? I get a young female dog. So she gets my arm. Thank god I remember: Use the middle finger and the pointer finger of your hand. So I hit her in the eyeballs. She releases. The other thing my cousin had told me was: Run into traffic when you’re attacked by a dog. You will be able to dodge the cars; the dog will get hit.

“I get one lane out into six lanes of traffic and I, for some reason, take a second to look back. The traffic stops. The dog is coming after me. I get to the other side of the boulevard. As I’m putting my left leg onto the kerb, the dog leaps up, was going for my balls but grabs my upper thigh and was about to clamp in for the arteries, the bones and the muscles. Now I’ve got both hands bleeding, several major lacerations on my left hand, which is my dominant hand though I write with my right hand. I use both hands because both hands are free because she’s on my thigh. I blind her in the right eye, I partially blind her in the left.”

“Literally blind her?” I ask.

“Literally. I crack the right eyeball and there’s ooze coming out. I bang the left one, so it’s partially damaged. I break her right leg. And I take all of my body weight, holding my left arm with my right hand so it has maximum power, and I lunge dead-centre at her spine. I damage the spine. She falls to the ground. She has my blood all over her.”

“Now,” I said, “it’s almost 7.30am in New York. Where are you off to now?”

Calvin Wynter: no hair, but a big Fringe

Calvin Wynter: no hair, but big on the Fringe theatre scene

“I’m headed off right now,” Calvin told me, “to have my teeth cleaned and also they did a biopsy on my jawbone. They performed dental surgery, removed the lesion and put it in for biopsy research. They called me on Friday which means I think I may have cancer. I don’t know. So far, everything that’s thought to have been cancerous was not – like the polyps I got from my colonoscopy. I had three polyps. No cancer. So who knows? Maybe the third time isn’t so good but, y’know look – I’ve had a shaved head before. I can have a shaved head again. I’m still Episcopalian, which is like your Church of England, but my philosophy is Buddhist which is essentially: What do we seek? Happiness. What is pain and sorrow? The route to happiness.”

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Wall Street actor/singer/dancer starts the first Brooklyn Fringe Festival

Calvin Wynter. No hair, but a man sporting his own Fringe

I think I first met US promoter/publicist Calvin Wynter at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2007, when he was involved in opening the new Green Room Venue, but he had been going there since 2004.

Yesterday, he told me: “I went to school in Geneva for a year and I had no idea the Edinburgh Fringe existed. My parents were avid theatre-goers and we were travelling to Europe almost every summer, but they had no idea the Edinburgh Fringe existed. When I was made aware that Edinburgh was the place to go then, in 2004, I went over with five shows. All sold out, were critically-acclaimed and one won the Richard Pryor Award. The following year, Richard Pryor’s daughter went over with us with six other shows.

“Now we’ve taken 135 shows to Edinburgh and we’ve done 250 shows worldwide. We’ve been at 50 festivals worldwide and toured 120 cities.”

And now, through his company Inbrook (of which I am an alleged creative consultant) he is staging his very own Fringe Festival – the Brooklyn Fringe, running 12th-21st July next year in New York.

“It’s something I’ve been thinking of for about four years,” he told me yesterday.

“In the East Coast, there is no ‘open’ festival. Everything is either juried or curated. It’s either You spend your money but we’re going to tell you if you can get in or We’ll decide whether you get in and we’ll pay for it. But there is nothing on the East Coast that is You find a place, you register with us and you’re now part of the Festival.

“There is a New York Fringe which has been around for over a decade, but it’s juried and they take 2% of your box office gross for the next seven years. I think that’s absurd. If you participate in the New York Fringe, for the next seven years – simply because they provided a place which you paid for for maybe six performances – they then take 2% of your box office gross whether you play in Boise, Indiana or Brighton, England.”

“What will you do instead?” I asked.

“We won’t take a percentage when they’re not in our facilities under our Festival banner,” he told me.

“What,” I said, “if I have a wonderful success at the Brooklyn Fringe and decide to go with a promoter other than you?”

“I worked for 13 years on Wall Street,” said Calvin. “On Wall Street, we don’t have competitors. We have colleagues. We don’t worry about the size of the pie. We’ll all eat. I come from an entirely different mindset than what I’ve experienced in a lot of emerging entertainment areas, which seem to think  that the world is small and that all of us are fierce competitors… It’s unecessary.

“If you go with another promoter, you are still going to tell someone Go to the Brooklyn Festival – and maybe they’ll go on to work with us afterwards. We’re thinking long term. The more the Brooklyn Fringe succeeds, the more our organisation gets a higher profile.

“At this stage, we’re looking for venues. By putting the word out that we’re looking for venues, we will also receive information about participants.”

“What if you don’t get enough venues to make it viable?” I asked.

A new Festival that is definitinely in Brooklyn not New York…

“There’s more than enough venues to make it viable,” Calvin told me. “Brooklyn is so vibrant. There’s a new stadium. The Nets basketball team have moved from New Jersey. A hockey team The Long Islanders are going to move in less that two years. Jay-Z did an intro concert there. The amount of construction is… Let’s put it this way, if Brooklyn were a free-standing city, it would be the fourth largest city in the United States right now, but it’s trending that, in the next few years, it will be the third largest.

“We have no fixed number of venues. The New York Fringe has stopped at around 200 venues. The more the merrier for us. We already have a number of shows that would like to work with us in Brooklyn under any circumstances.”

“So,” I said, “I can come to you and say I’ve got a venue above a bar in Brooklyn and I want to put on a show and then you would put me in the Festival programme?”

“If someone registers a show from that location, then you are now a Festival venue. As long as you do it within Brooklyn, it’s part of the Brooklyn Fringe.”

“And,” I asked, “it will be ‘open’ like the Edinburgh Fringe? You will co-ordinate but not put on any shows yourself?”

“We will put on shows,” said Calvin. “We are going to be ‘open’, juried, curated and ‘pay-what-you-can’.

“If you go see a show that is ‘free’, the reality is that the performer, producer or someone stands there with a bucket or a hat at the end., asking for money. What is that really? It’s pay-what-you-can.

“So we are going to be up-front and say that some shows are pay-what-you-can.”

“So,” I said, “I can come to you either with my own fixed-price show or pay-what-you-can show and venue or I can come to you and you’ll provide the venue and hire it out to me?”

“Yes,” said Calvin. “Or some other entrepreneur will set up a venue and put on a show. It’s every variable. On some shows, if it’s necessary for us to put our own money up and bring our own expertise to it, we’re gonna do that, bringing in the creatives, the crew, the marketing effort.”

“Are you getting any money from the local council?” I asked.

“This is the American Dream,” said Calvin. “You go out. You focus on being the best. And you are able to create something that serves the public need. It’s a team of performers and creatives that also – almost all of us – have backgrounds in the financial industry. We do it in such a way that it’s self-sufficient. We can’t depend on government. Arts funding has been cut throughout the United States. We are not dependent on public funding or donations or grants. As we see government and foundation funding evaporate… we just create a business model that works for all.”

“So your background is Wall Street?” I asked.

“I retired 12 years ago, when I was 40 years old. I don’t need the money. I want to be creative. I want to help artists to grow.

Calvin Wynter Jnr as a child with his father

“I was a performer as a child. Even when I was a baby, I was in a commercial for milk. But, when it came time for career selection, I ended up going to Wall Street and, just before I left Wall Street, I found out that I had – without my knowledge – been hiring actors, dancers, comedians. Every member of my staff was in not only one but the three major unions in the United States. Even in the case of members of staff from Britain, they were in British Equity.

“I had been unconsciously surrounding myself  with performers. So it was natural when one said You should pursue this that I went, in less than 90 days, from taking three acting classes to being in one off-Broadway show, in rehearsals for another, doing indie films at the weekend and setting up a production company that would go on to be nominated for a Drama Desk Award in less than 18 months. I leased a theatre – the Gene Frankel Theatre – renovated it, started putting on productions.”

“You were an actor?” I asked.

“I was an actor, a singer and dancer. I’ve just got back from producing a show in Amsterdam, scouting theatres in Berlin for touring and being taken to Prague to consult on a musical that was in a 1,000 seat theatre.”

“So you are an actor, singer and dancer who turned producer, promoter and publicist?”

“In one instance,” said Calvin, “we were even involved in producing a show in a car. Two actors in the fronts seats, two audience members in the back. Whether it’s an elevator, a boiler room, a toilet or a 1,000 seat theater we want to see Art.”

“And a businessman,” I added.

“Brooklyn Fringe venue registration applications are due by Monday, 28 January 2013,” Calvin told me.

“And a salesman,” I added.

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