For seven years I have had the district honor of performing as a Speed Painter for the Boys and Girls clubs of Broward County at the “Concourse d’Elegance” ( That there is French for “fancy antique car show! “) at the Boca Beach Club resort, a Waldorf Astoria hotel in Boca Raton, Florida built in 1926. We must be doing something right!
The Boys and Girl’s club, has hosted this prestigious event with such notable speakers as Jay Leno, Howie Mandell, Dennis Miller, Dana Carvey, Bob Newhart and more! I think this was Jay Leno’s 3rd time to host.
The day after the gala, we attended the car show on the golf course with a champagne “taste of the town” event drooling over these automotive beauties. Boca feels like an annual thing for us now, with its signature pink walls and beautiful, ancient banyan trees, glimmering yachts, sparkling beach and beautiful art all over the historic property.
Jamie McConnell is a very successful entrepreneur and a character! The man is a hoot! He was featured on Joan Rivers show, “How’d ya get so rich?” a few years back. Together with other notables like automotive giants, Rick Case and Michael Jackson, ( Not THAT Michael Jackson,) they have spearheaded this event and raised 28 million dollars over the years – we’ve seen them raise 3 million in a night! All for a very worthy cause that helps so many kids who really need it – 98% of kids that attend Boys and Girls clubs after school programs go on to college.
As a speed painter I have had the pleasure of working with many celebrities, but Jay Leno is unique. There is a reason why we all love him. Aside from being a brilliant comic mind, he radiates who he is at his core – a nice guy who has done well, a guy like you and I. He is utterly relatable and hilarious!
When I was starting Paintjam, I performed stand up comedy ( just open mic night, no money changed hands, ) for a few years. My thought was that I could write a few bits to use in between paintings on stage. I was never the top comic in the room, but I held my own with a few bits, and I was far from the worst!
But more important than being funny, this experience made me bullet proof on stage. Stand up comedy is fantastic training for what I do now – nothing scares me. I have faced down “flop sweat”, heard crickets many (“It seemed funny in my bedroom” ), and learned to calm your nerves while waiting for hours to go on. I’ve experienced the adrenaline rush for the five minutes on stage, and coming down from it and having a drink afterwards. It’s a routine that helped me be calm on Ellen and Fallon and in a stadium with 80,000 fans. It doesn’t matter how deep the water is, 10 ft or 100. Just keep swimming!
So because of my studies – or attempted studies – in comedy, I basically worship Jay Leno. He is on my short list of comic idols. It was a thrill to hang out backstage before he went on, and visit a bit. We learned from him how to get the most out of a charity gala watching as he auctioned off trips to his garage and show several years ago – he raised $50K in a few minutes doing that.
The crowd filed into the ballroom as I painted the harbor of New York City to Neil Diamond’s “America”. The song faded to a Celene Dion recording singing “God Bless America” as I painted Lady Liberty in the harbor, lighting her torch and the twin tower beacons in the sky as the song reached it’s climax.
A small canvas in a huge picture frame was wheeled on stage and I painted John Lennon from behind the canvas to a piano cover of “Imagine”. We call this piece “Blind Lennon” and it is a key piece from the full stage and symphony shows we are developing – it’s the most difficult thing I do.
I followed that with a painting, upside down of course, of a 1931 Deusenberg from Jay’s collection to Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” and then the man himself peeking around the corner with his “Cat that ate the canary” trademark smirk to some Big Bad Voodoo Daddies, “Boogie Bumper!”
And the crowd went wild! A few were chanting “Paintjam! Paintjam! That was nice!
The paintings were immediately auctioned and I was free to watch Jay’s set where, as usual, he gave 110% and had the audience right in the palm of his hand. Genius! Backstage afterwards I could tell in his face that he had given it his all. You have to respect this. Performing and doing it well is exhausting.
I introduced him to the lovely Ms Cindy and went to get him to sign the piece with a tube of paint for the lucky high bidder. We even got a photo of him with Team Paintjam!
Thank you Boys and Girls Clubs, once again. We hope to see you again next year!