Getting ‘fired’ up for singing debut on TV

Mr. JR Johnson fired me when he caught me “entertaining” friends at his place of business. 

He waited until the end of the shift Friday, and told me my days (actually, nights) as a stripper were over. I tried to explain, apologize for my actions, but that evening it was to no avail. 

It hung over me that weekend. But did little to dim one of the brightest moments of my life. 

I performed on television. Harmonized with my singing group on the Super Lou Television Dance Show, as a member of  “The Five Jaunts.” We did two Doo Wop songs that made the girls swoon and the guys snap fingers and sing along. I sang with two other guys from Brewerytown ( North Philadelphia), and two from the more affluent Far NorthEast Philladelphia, blending a sound that inspired one record producer to offer us a contract, and provide me with a brief period of local fame and notoriety. 

We had practiced for nearly a year, and I got fired when members of the group had decided to pay me a surprise visit. They had come “downtown,” purchased identical shirts for our TV “gig,” and walked into my nearby center city job site to show me the shirts. We were a group, and it was the closest thing we could come up with for a “costume.” 


They bought shirts with collars that stretched on and on. No buttons, just a gaping space at the chest. I’d recall them when watching a “Seinfeld” episode, the one with the “Puffy” shirts. They were different, but with the same principle. The boss walked in — I had stopped working to try on a shirt — and he saw what must have appeared as me “goofy off” on his time. He fired me after my group left the premises. 

The following day, we sang without a hitch to applauds from a dance crowd at a studio rented by one of the — at that time — new UHF television stations, Channel 29. This was before VCRs were invented. Never made a visual recording, but the girlfriend of our lead singer, his future and still current wife, eventually “transferred” a tape-recorded version onto a CD, and surprised each member years later with a version of our own “Oldies but Goodies.” 

But then, when the crowning achievement of my singing career ended that weekend in the late 60s, I had to return to work, and try to get my job back. 

I was a stripper. Went to school to learn the trade. Dobbins Technical High School, where I learned offset printing, the fine art of lithography. I would “strip” goldenrod sheets of paper to allow light to “burn” images onto a metal plate used in the printing process. I developed the negatives, place the goldenrod sheet over the “neg,” and use an X-acto knife to cut the paper, exposing the reverse letters and “pictures.” We called this work “stripping,” a process that printing inventor Guttenberg could be proud to lay claim to. 

Got my job “back.” It seems, that JR’s sister had seen the television show and called her older brother. (He was really old, must have been at least 50.) She confirmed what I had told the boss Friday, the night he fired me. When I showed up for work Monday, he called me into his office,  told me that I was  “unfired,” and smiled. 

Never did sing on TV again. But I still print. One keyboard stroke after another.

4 comments on “Getting ‘fired’ up for singing debut on TV

  1. When you first mentioned you got fired from your night time stripping job, I had another unwelcome thought entirely. Glad you cleared that up.

    Man – you’ve done it all, haven’t you? Lawyer, stripper, war vet, singer. Is there anything left? Anything on your bucket list, still to do?


    • contoveros says:


      The stripper job gets you everytime!

      You play music don’t you? I got a theory that playing music opens a person to others, even if they simply play for themselves. Music allows a person to feel connected with a source outside of them.

      It’s even better when you create music with another. I loved to harmonize. Still do when I’m chanting some Buddhist, Sufi or Christian tune.

      Bucket List. Now you got me thinking . . .

      On second thought, let me stay with the topic of music. I’ll get into less trouble that way.

      michael j


  2. Phil says:

    What a great story, Michael. Thank you!




    • contoveros says:


      Thanks. I got a few more from the teenage years (printable ones, that is) and I hope to air them soon. Finally felt “free” to stir the memory fire to see if an ember might light up.

      Get it? Air embers?

      No, I didn’t “get it” either until I pointed it out to myself. Never know what you got, until something is pointed out or reviewed from a different point of view. Felt uncomfortable writing about singing with the group. More comfortable with the firing. One helps tell a story for the other.

      michael j


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