- All Posts
- Growing Up Bronx
I recently had the distinct pleasure of speaking with Evan Ginzburg, the mentor and a good friend of the Rendezvous show hosts Alysia and Cris. After a brief introduction as to who I am and what I do, we got down and chatted for nearly 1 1/2 hours! Following are some key takeaways from our conversation along with some fun facts on the man himself. Let’s get to it yo!
Anyone that knows this man knows that this is a loaded question. The real question is “What isn’t Evan Ginzburg”? Is that even proper English, doesn’t read like it, but I’m going to go ahead and keep that anyway. Those popular Chuck Norris meme’s come to mind when talking of Evan, for instance “Evan doesn’t rise with the sun, the sun rises to Evan”.
So who is Evan Ginzburg? Well, Evan is an actor, he is a radio talk show host, a tv talk show host, a journalist, a published author, an agent, a mentor, a friend, a bit of a comedian, and a much bigger in person than his pictures lead you to believe. Huh? Wait what? Bigger? Well after our phone interview, I met Evan in person at The Big Apple Indie Music Series, and he’s a pretty big guy. For some reason I expected that he’d be smaller, like me. But no, I was wrong, he’s a big boy. A busy big boy that wears many hats.
Evan has been involved with the sport of wrestling for the longest time. He is a fan and an expert in the sport, he was a wrestling magazine editor, and he also writes a Wrestling newsletter “Then and now”. There was a period of his life that Evan was heavily involved with the sport of wrestling, but these days he’s only sporadically involved, he interviews a legend here and there, promotes a show as he sees fits, and so on. From time to time he still does takes on the role of agent, booking legends for autographs and signings. Most recently he booked one of these shows for “The Genius” Lanny Poffo. Lanny is another cool dude that I recently met as well, I even got to hear some of his poetry at the Legends TV Launch party where I also performed.
As we spoke about wrestling, I managed to sneak in my views about how I felt on the sport being scripted. Now as I mentioned before, Evan is a big guy, and I don’t want to get my butt kicked. In addition to that I don’t want leaping Lanny Poffo, or Johnny Valiant, or any of the the other wrestlers I may meet in the near future to kick my butt, the operative word here is SCRIPTED, not fake, SCRIPTED! Those acrobatics, the moves, the conditioning, the muscles, the athleticism, those things cannot be faked. Evan put it best when he said this to me “Gravity can’t be faked, Angel”!
Entertainment wrestling is an art form, and wrestlers hate the word fake! Rightfully so! These guys are on the road for months and months at a time, they spend a lot of time away from their friends and families and they make many sacrifices for this life. There is nothing fake about that. Wrestlers more often than not end up with bad hips, bad backs, and dozens of broken bones over the years. Again, there’s nothing fake about that.
Personally I never participated in entertainment wrestling, but I’ve trained and fought in mixed martial arts, and I can tell you that those judo throws and wrestling take downs hurt quite a bit! Another real aspect of this sport is broken relationships, there are many divorces due to the demands and rigors of this career. Finally, we have to talk about how many wonderful wrestlers have died because of steroid use and the taxing lifestyle. One of Evan’s good friends, Tiger Kahn died 7 years ago, there is nothing fake about that. Wrestling is a rough business.
When asked about which he personally prefers indie or professional wrestling, Evan said that he is not really into commercial wrestling, he said this is just entertainment for the kids. He respects the pro artists, he respects the pro sport, but he personally prefers to watch indie wrestling where the focus is more on the sport as opposed to simply being entertaining. I for one, find it absolutely ridiculous that a wrestler has to jump off of a 20 foot ladder to entertain anyone. Whenever I saw that, I asked myself “WHAT THE HELL IS THE POINT OF THAT?” Who jumps off of a damn ladder to hurt their opponent? The whole concept is ridiculous to me! Can I do it? No. Would I even try do it? Hell no! I’d be dead, I’m not knocking the act or the athlete, I’m knocking the script! You want to hurt an opponent, slam them! Jumping off of the equivalent of a 1 or 2 story building is not the way my friend!
As I mentioned in the last segment, Evan Ginzburg is a subject matter expert on the sport of wrestling. Due to his extensive knowledge and connections in the sport he was made the Associate Producer for the film “The Wrestler”. What does that job entail? Well simply put, Evan was the wrestling contact for the film. Through his connections he had over 150 wrestlers come in for casting and he also took the film’s producer and writers to many Indie wrestling shows. Evan was literally the man that opened the door to the wrestling world as all the promoters and wrestlers know him and they didn’t know the movie staff. He credits making this film as one of the most rewarding experiences of his life. He feels that Mickey Rourke performed as good a portrayal of the wrestler as anyone ever could. He compared this film to Rocky, he said that this is one of those films that you can watch and love regardless of whether or not you are a fan of the sport.
Now check out this awesome twist! Even though it was not part of the original plan, Evan ended up having a short speaking role on the film. He ended playing himself in the movie, NOW HOW COOL IS THAT? Evan was explaining to me how surreal it was that he, a guy with little to no experience in film was acting in a movie alongside a golden globe winner and an academy award nominee! He described it as a great experience! He said that up until that point his only “acting” was in the form of wrestling documentaries and wrestling specials. He went from zero to sixty on this one!
So how did Evan land a role in this film with so little experience? It turns out that just as real life happens, this also happened! It was 100% random and literally out of the blue. He said that the film’s producer, Darren Aronofsky had a smirk on his face, he then calls Evan over, and the next thing you know they are putting the mics on him for a sequence. Huh? What’s going on yo?
The scene was an autograph sequence, he said that it was a depressing scene for the wrestler because no one really showed up for autographs. Evan turns out to be one of the few fans that showed up to meet the wrestler. There was no script here, no plan, Mickey Rourke as a seasoned actor tells Evan to simply improv the scene, you know, just improv the scene. During the scene Evan works the room and eventually gets to Mickey, he tells mickey that’s he’s a huge fan and asks for an autograph. As this was all being winged and improvised, when Mickey asks him “Hey, whats your name”, he says “Evan”. How cool is that?
I could hear in his voice that Evan really loved working on this film. He told me that he felt the movie captured the real life behind wrestling, that it covered the hardships involved and many of the aspects that I mentioned above in the wrestling segment. This film is definitely on my to do list. I remember wanting to watching it long before I heard the name Evan Ginzburg, and now that I have I want to see it even more. I’m really looking forward to watching Evan’s 30 seconds of screen time in a full feature film, his admission into immortality. You have to give the man props (props is street speak for respect) because he rose to the occasion and did a great job when most others would probably have frozen up! At the end of it all he watched the film at the NY film festival, with 2,300 or so people at the Lincoln Center. He said it was really cool when people recognized him from the movie and he says this was definitely one of the greatest experiences of his life. The Wrestler is available everywhere, and is often played on network television. Evan recommends that you watch the full uncut version of the film.
I mentioned at the opening that among other things, Evan is currently a variety show host. He has the Radio show “Legends Radio” which is co-hosted by Dr. Mike Lano, and now the newer “Legends TV” which is co-hosted by Steve Ludwig. One of the first things he mentioned when discussing Legends TV was the house band. Edwin Vazquez Musica. Since our interview, I’ve actually had the honor to jam out with Edwin Vazquez Musica a few times at the Big apple indie music series, and I also performed alongside him and his awesome band at the Women’s Networking Emporium and the Legends TV launch party. As such I can now appreciate the things Evan said to me about Edwin Vazquez during our interview so much more!
Edwin is a musical genius, he is absolutely amazing, mind you these are my own words right now. He really is amazing. Actually, let me rephrase, THEY simply are amazing, Edwin is not a solo artist, the entire band is awesome! You really should check them out! Evan put it this way, “Those guys could perform the content of the phone book to me and it would sound absolutely amazing”. I have to agree, Edwin is a spiritual, easy going man. As I observe him I can’t help but envy what I perceive is his peaceful, easy nature, he seems so comfortable in his own skin. It’s something we all should strive for in life. He’s an amazing musical talent that sings directly from the heart and really leaves it all on the stage when he performs. He’s also well versed on several instruments and loves to perform. Watching him is magical, there is no doubt in your mind that you are watching a master of this craft. Edwin Vazquez is art personified. The band has a great synergy, James Grover, Peter Dunphy, and Alpha Halvorsen perfectly complement the vocals from Edwin Vazquez to create “music to your ears”. Look them up, here is a link to their Reverbnation!
Oh, right, we are supposed to be talking about Evan Ginzburg and Legends TV! Ha! Hey, look, it’s not my fault, blame this on Evan, he’s the one that brought up Edwin Vazquez Musica, it’s not my fault that the band is genius! Hahaha.
Evan described his show as a cross between the Ed Sullivan Show and the Tonight Show. It’s not really a talk show, but there is talk, it’s not really a variety show, but there is plenty of variety. It is a hybrid of sorts. During any one show you can have a poet, a ballerina, a rapper, an actor and a female wrestling champion all sitting in the same room, on the same couch, at the same time. Now how’s that for variety. Evan feels that anything done well is art, because of that he does not just cover Legends of wrestling, or music, or any one particular topic. He is a firm believer in the idea that we as adults should have varied tastes, that we should have experiences in many areas, and his show topics and guests certainly portray that view.
Evan has been doing a radio version of his show, Legends Radio for the last 7 years. The concept behind the radio show is pretty much the same thing as the tv show. He believes that we should have diverse interest and this show also reflects that. His show is very popular and has listeners tuning in from all over the globe. Recently he had on Ron Jeremy, and shortly thereafter our friend, Cynthia from Flaco Coquito! How’s that for diversity? Since we were speaking of diverse tastes, I shared with Evan some of my own diverse tastes, ranging from Chinese music to Gangsta rap, from poetry to mixed martial arts, and much more that I won’t go into as this post is not about me. Hahah.
Evan grew up in East Flatbush, Brooklyn. He stated that growing up back in those days he saw a lot. He actually wrote a book of short stories called “Apartment 4b like in Brooklyn” where he talks about his experiences during that era. The book is a real life collection of short stories about growing up in the tough neighborhood of Flatbush during the 60′s and 70′s. He talks about the issues that they dealt with back then. He talks about the civil rights era, the racial and political tensions in the air and much more.
He told me a story about this term called “Blockbusting”. As I understood this it was when real estate agents would go to white neighborhoods and tell the homeowners that they should sell their house because blacks were moving into the area. The agents then turn around and sell the same house to a black family while telling them that they are moving into a safer white neighborhood. It was a play on the racial tensions of the time, and highly illegal.
At one point there was a murder in one of the neighboring houses, the “rumor” went that a black man killed his girlfriend. This expedited the exodus of the white folks from this neighborhood. The white people fled to Long Island in mass numbers. At the end of it all it turns out that it was actually a white guy that committed the crime. Again, playing on the racial tensions.
In 10 words or less, Evan says that his book is about “being the only white kid on the block”. That being said, he said that some people looked out for him, while others were racist and treated him badly. I can relate to this though I am not white, based on my own appearance, growing up in the South Bronx I was treated as if I were a white person. Apparently I looked and acted white, but that’s a blog post topic that I’ve already covered on my ownwebsites.
Though we are here some 40 or so years later, some of these tensions still exist. Take the Zimmerman and Martin situation, the nation is as divided on this issue as it ever was on any other topic in our nation’s history. Evan’s wife is Korean Christian and he is White Jewish. Even to this day he has been the victim of cultural and racial divide. When he was going to marry his wife he mentioned that a few individuals questioned whether or not this was a green card hustle. Being married to a beautiful Chinese woman myself, I have been on the receiving end of this type of humor as well. One of my friends said once “She must need a green card, otherwise what the hell would she be doing with you. She’s too beautiful and you are too ugly.” Funny right? Yeah.
On the topic of racism and the sort we also spoke about the recent cheerios commercial where there was a mixed race child. Most people are ok with this, I watched the commercial over and over trying to find out what was offensive about the commercial. I didn’t see anything, then I realized people were just being idiots. They were angry that a white woman was with a black man. Frankly speaking, that is just stupid talk. Who cares? Myself and Evan strongly agree on this. He mentioned how being a Jewish man, some of his fellow Jews would hate that he went outside his race, and the same could be said about how some Koreans may feel about his wife marrying a non-Korean man.
We agreed that when the people of the future look at our world today and the way we live, they will see us the way that we see the people of 1013. They will look at us and these silly things we fight over and think that we are so primitive and barbaric. The people from 3013 will look back to all that we did as a society, drone killings, fighting over oil, race, religion, region and even land? They’ll probably say something like “Oil? Who in blazes uses oil for energy, that’s absolutely insane, those people are beasts”!
I told Evan about how Alysia and Cris said that he was their hosting mentor. He humbly replied: “that’s nice of them”. He believes in the pay it forward way of life. He told me about Frederich Giobold from WBAI-FM who was his mentor. Giobold was an old school wrestling fan from the Midwest and he invited Evan to his show to talk about wrestling once a month . Evan wanted to do more, he wanted to bring up bands, writers, and much more. He spoke fondly about his 3am train rides to get into the studio, bringing all these different artists late at night to talk. He loved it.
Evan feels that your radio time is a blank canvas, you can paint the picture as you like, you set it. He cautions to let the other person talk, not to be a shock jock. He believes that the guest should do 80% of the talking, if that is not happening then you are talking too much! Although he did say that they could be a bad interview, that does happens from time to time. Legends radio, features many legends, but also indie music artists, poets, and more! His show is 2 hours and 20 minutes or so. He breaks it down by about 20-25 minutes per guest. Throughout the show he plays music from indie artists as well. If you’d like to be considered then submit 2-4 mp3′s and they may play it.
In regards to his mentees, Evan believes that Cris and Alysia are naturals at the hosting thing, he is just passing on the little nuances that they may need. He is grateful and honored to be imparting his knowledge on those two.
We touched on how in the old days you had to be on radio, the z100′s and so on to be anyone in this profession. Nowadays all you need is a usb mic and you can do well online if people like you. Legends Radio is heard in countries all over the world. He said that he was on radio for 16 years, and he does admit that being on the radio is more prestigious, but this method is more flexible. One key point is that you set up your own schedule, he does the show about 48 weeks out of the year. He loves that there is no FCC to deal with, even though he doesn’t really curse on the show. He said that on the rare occasion that he does curse on the radio, then it is a topic he’s passionate about and the people need to know that.
Evan knows that not everyone is built for everything. It’s realistic. He says that a performer has to know their audience. On that point, Evan was recently a judge for a recording label at an event that was held at an Elegant Jazz Club. The demographic was an older more mature crowd. He said that a rapper came out and he starts to curse throughout his entire song, simply for the sake of cursing. Apparently none of the listeners were offended, but this wasn’t the crowd for this type of music. Know your audience y’all! He recently did the Legends tv show and one of his guest artist was a poet. He knows that most people don’t have the stamina to listen to 30 minutes of poetry in one sitting. Due to this he told the poet to do his 2 most powerful pieces. It’s all about the attention span, keeping the listener or watcher interested. Again, know your audience!
Be careful when interviewing people, don’t speak too much or you could risk saying something that offends them. You really don’t want that to happen, leave your politics and opinions at the door. Focus on the artist and what they do. Also remember, they need to cover 80% of the talk time. He did state that if the guest says something really inappropriate he will try and shrug it off, but he is also prepared to politely share his view if need be. It is a skill and finesse that comes with years of practice.
Clint Eastwood, James Brown, Bruce Lee, Michael Jackson, and on goes the list, all great men that have very different views than his, or they did something that is not very cool. Bruce Lee for instance, passed away at his mistress’ house. James Brown was accused of domestic violence. Clint Eastwood speaks to an empty share. ETC. Evan said that we have to remember that these are people just like you and I, with problems, just like you and I. Recently Allen Iverson was said to be broke while another basketball player was accused of making homophobic remarks. On these scenarios Evan asked the question what skills do these guys bring to the table? In some cases they don’t have any other skills whatsoever, they may lack skills in finance, people skills and just basic common sense. At the end of the day some of these guys have their talents, and that’s all they may have. There are exceptions, but most of them are not scholars so you can’t expect that from them.
I spoke with Evan for a long time, I tried to capture the essence of our talk on this post. It’s funny because while I was interviewing him I was telling him that I was a bit nervous about calling up and interviewing people I didn’t actually know. He stated that I have nothing to be nervous about, that the person should be happy and grateful that I took time out of my day to interview them. He said that we the writers are in fact doing them a favor, providing more publicity. He told me that our time says “You are worth being interviewed.” What better way to close? Thank you Evan for your time!
Check out these shows!
This post was originally featured on TRS247
Growing Up Bronx