THE BIG QUESTION - Performer John Rainone / by Bo Gerard

This week’s profile is of a performer who has done it all (and continues to do it all) - John Rainone! One of the most versatile performers I have ever worked with, and certainly the busiest. At one time John was doing around 700 gigs a year. That’s right 700. He’s is a thespian (not that there’s anything wrong with that), a clown, a musician, a juggler, a magician, a chef, and the most loyal of friends. A man whose motto is, “You can fool some of the people some of the time, and that's all I need to make a living.” Oh, and he’s funny, too, as you will see.


What were your influences?
Growing up in Texas suburbia there wasn't much by way of influences except TV. I'd watch Mr. Peppermint, Capt. Kangaroo, Icky Twerp, the Three Stooges, cartoons, Red Skelton, Jerry Lewis, Lucy, Jackie Gleason, etc. My dad and I loved Ed Sullivan - all the old vaudeville acts. My parents gave me piano lessons and took me to see musicals and theatre almost every month, then were surprised when I tried out for school plays and joined a rock band at age 13.


What other jobs have you had?
I've tried hard my whole life never to work real jobs. Sadly, it was unavoidable:
• Stock boy in a pharmaceutical warehouse
• Bellhop at a cheap motel
• Busboy
• Shoe salesman at Treasure City (a discount store like K-Mart)
• Teacher
• School bus driver
• Balloon delivery boy
• Carnival game operator
• Loan shark
One of those is fake. Can you guess?


Do you have any hobbies?
No hobbies. I used to assemble plastic scale model kits, but Mom worried about the glue fumes. She may have been right. I do like to host and attend wine tastings. I'm not a connoisseur. I'm a drunkard. I also fancy myself a semi-hemi-quasi amateur chef. My victims can attest to my culinary prowess. Most fully recovered.


Can you tell me about some of the highlights in your career?
The lowlights of my "career" are far more impressive. But...
• Acting onstage with Morgan Freeman in Othello - Dallas Shakespeare
• Featured in a daily kid's TV show with Paul Osborne - KDFI "Club 27"
• Having dinner with Mark Wilson and Nani Darnell in LA - I never used to miss Magic Land of Alakazam on Saturday morning. Or Shari Lewis!
• Playing Lucky in Godot at Theatre Three - the last production Norma Young directed.
When I was in grade school and high school I used to win piano competitions now and then. I don't know what happened. Must be all that wine.


What was the craziest gig you ever did?
There's no way to single out THE craziest. It seems crazy HAS BEEN my career. Every time an agent gets a call for something insane, I seem to be the go-to guy. Here's some candidates. You pick:
• Super Irv - costumed, caped character for Irving Mall helping ladies carry their shopping bags out to the parking lot
• Captain Crud - costumed, caped character telling school kids where to recycle poisons, paints and pesticides
• Mr. See It - costumed (no cape this time) character telling fourth graders to get their eyes checked
• A piano playing gorilla in an actual gorilla costume (no cape) but a top hat, dickey and brown cotton gloves so I could literally feel the keys
• A homeless person in a street facade set in a hotel lobby for a business convention. I was so convincing as a bum the management called security to have me thrown out. (That's happened a lot even when I wasn't impersonating a street person.)
• A clown (again no cape) following an indoor parade at Town East Mall tasked with scooping up the animal poop and dancing around with the sack of turds. I'd just graduated with honors from the SMU Theatre Dept. My then girlfriend said, "Don't do it." I replied, "What? And give up Show Business!" True story.


What has changed the most in your business in the last 10 years?”
A lot has changed in 10 years:
• Me
• the Internet has changed everything - advertising, promotion, bookings, etc.
• It seems perhaps the very concept of live performance may now be passé.

“The Big Question” - I have known and performed with you for 33 years, and one of your most remarkable qualities is your ability to smile, adapt and soldier on, no matter what crazy thing is thrown at you at a gig. The question is: Where you born with this quality or did you develop it along the way?

You saw the movie "Big Night"? I'm like Pascal. Not an artist. A businessman. "I'm anything I need to be." No. Wasn't born that way. I'm naturally arrogant and insistent on having my way. Had to learn something my high school drama teacher told us the very first day in class: there's always people with more talent than you. But actors who get hired back are the ones who are dependable, easy to work with, professional and don't cop an attitude. "

I learn that over and over. The hard way every time. As for adapting, soldiering on... my college creative dramatics professor taught us "it's all about problem solving." You didn't ask what I'd be if not a performer. I thought of one yesterday but forgot what it was. Oh yes. Memory expert. (WITH a cape.)