“Laughter is not only psychologically a deterrent; it’s physiologically therapeutic. Comedians are
physicians of the soul.”
– Tom Dreesen (16:43-16:45)
Laughter is the best medicine, and it always will be. To send you some cure to whatever illness you’re experiencing right now, Someone Gets Me has an amazing guest with us who can heal us by making us laugh. But wait there’s more! Our guest for today’s episode also managed to have a vision and go after it with fervor and attain it and is still moving forward with amazing things.
Tom Dreesen is with us today. He’s coming to us from California and Tom has a longstanding career that started with that inner urge of “I’m going to do something with my life, and I’m going to follow that inner vision.” And guess what? He did it. Tom is a known actor and comedian. He opened for Frank Sinatra for many years and has been on over 500 T.V. shows and movies.
Tom has an amazing story that will inspire you beyond measure. So get your coffee or your tea. Hang out with us for a little while and let yourself listen to his words in a way that will touch your heart and provide meaning for you.
Part One of “How To Execute Your Vision with Tom Dreesen.”
Tom Dreesen has such a fascinating life that roots from the inner part of him that took a stand to follow his vision. I believe that if we talk about how he did that, all these great results he achieved, and all the fun experiences, then we’ll learn something valuable from him.
Tom related that he grew up in a suburb on the south side of Chicago called Harvey, Illinois. It was steel mills and factories where they made everything from clutch plates to crankshafts. He had eight brothers and sisters, and they lived in a shack with no bathtub, no shower, no hot water. The shack was rat-infested, roach-infested and if a window broke, you stuck a rag in it.
He further added that as a little boy, both his parents were alcoholic. He would take his shoe shine box every night and go shining shoes in all the bars in the neighborhood. At age 16, he helped feed his brothers and sisters.
As poor as they were during those times, Tom was embarrassed by the way he dressed whenever he attended school. He quit high school when he was a sophomore and worked in the streets. He ran with a tough crowd and at age 17 went into the Navy.
When Tom was in the Navy, he began to go out to sea and read. “I wanted to read books that would improve my mind. When you’re a young boy like that, you’re reading sex novels and stuff like that. But I kept thinking I need to improve my mind. So I started reading Norman Vincent Peale, The Power of Positive Thinking.” shared Tom.
Tom also mentioned that “The Magic of Believing” by Claude Bristol helped him more than anything. From that moment on, Tom believed that whatever the mind can see and believe, it will achieve. And that fascinated me and how you could accomplish that.
“That’s what this vehicle we have, this body we have, it needs a flight plan. “– Tom Dreesen (05:53-05:57)
In giving an account of how he executed his vision, Tom let the cat out of the bag and shared to us his beliefs. He said, “I now get motivation talks on four subjects: perception visualization, self talk and develop a sense of humor. But I tell everybody that most people wander in life because they don’t know what they want in life. So I said this, “The pilot who flies the 747 from L.A. to Boston, does he drive a hundred miles an hour to the airport, drive out on a tarmac, run to board the aircraft, take off down the runway and say, “Now, where am I going?” NO! He files a flight plan. That’s what this vehicle we have, this body we have, it needs a flight plan.”
Anchored to that belief and enthusiasm, while Tom was in the Junior Chamber of Commerce, he wrote a drug education program about drug abuse with humor. He was making the kids laugh, playing music and everything, and then showing them the illicit drug use in our community.
At that time, they were teaching drug education at a college level or high school level, let alone at an elementary school level. He met a young black guy who graduated from Norfolk State College, and his name was Tim Reid. Together they worked on a project, went from one classroom to another, and the program became very popular.
Then one day, a little girl walked out of the classroom and said, “You guys are funny, you ought to become a comedy team.” That moment rang some bell on Tom’s mind, and he said, “I never, ever thought about being in show business. That was the furthest thing from my mind.” The thought of a black-white comedy team is intriguing, and there had never been one in America.
They started writing what they thought was material and went into a club. That first night on stage on Friday night, something Tom had written got a laugh, and it was almost like an epiphany, like the dark clouds opening up like a bee movie.
“At that very moment, my whole being. Oh, yes, this is what I want to do. I want to make a living as a standup comedian. The thought that I can make a living making people laugh overwhelmed me.” Tim proudly retold how he felt during that moment of celebration, self-satisfaction, and victory.
Part Two of “How To Execute Your Vision with Tom Dreesen.”
Tom’s winning moment doesn’t end there. He also shared that one day when he was eight years old, he was selling newspapers and all horns were blowing, all the elders in the community were coming out in the streets. It’s Lou Boudreau day; he’s a famous baseball player from Harvey, Illinois. He played shortstop for the Cleveland Indians, and they won the World Series. He’s a hometown hero. That day, Tom thought, “Wow, there are parades, and people were cheering him on. Wow, somebody from Harvey, Illinois, is famous. One day maybe they’ll also have a parade for me.” On that Lou Boudreau day, Tom was fantasizing about driving down a street and waving at everybody in a car.
Then, August 22nd, 1992, Tom went back to Harvey, Illinois, and on that corner, that corner where he sold newspapers, they named that street, “Dreesen Street.”—after him. A big parade was made for him, and the guy who introduced me to the crowd was Lou Boudreau.
“You can live every day until you die. Or you can die every day until you die. It’s your call.”-Tom Dreesen (41:31-41:37)
Tom also had an inspiring answer when I asked him if there was any food he had eaten that was so memorable that he still thinks about it, whether it was good, bad or indifferent.
So he told us another story and said, “When I was a little boy, the shack we lived in, we rarely had meals. And I grew up with very poor nutrition. I took my shoeshine box downtown Chicago and went by the Chicago theatre. There was a steak place called the Blackhawk Restaurant, and I had never eaten steak in my life. The smells of that steak, I couldn’t believe how delicious that smell was. But I couldn’t afford to pay for that. And my family’s greatest delicacy would have been chicken.
Years later, when I was in the Navy, a buddy of mine, got to ask me what kind of steak you like? And I said, “I don’t know. I’d never eaten steak.” He didn’t believe that.
Steaks are done well in Chicago, and there’s a place called Gibson Steakhouse that when I go to Chicago, I’d go there and have my steak.”
“Prayers are answered. Sometimes we can’t handle it all alone. You need to have faith, and faith can move mountains. It can move mountains, and I’m a living example of that.” Tom added.
In closing, Tom reminded us that Every day is a celebration. Every day is a gift. Every morning when you wake up, say yes, to whatever amazing experience or opportunity shows up. It’s always more magical and amazing than you imagined.
Tom Dreesen Full Bio:
Tom Dreesen left his hometown of Harvey, Illinois over 40 years ago to seek fame and fortune in Hollywood. Since that time he has made over 500 appearances on national television as a standup comedian including 61 appearances on the Tonight Show. He was a favorite guest of David Letterman and has hosted the show during David’s absence. For years, he has been a regular in all of the main showrooms in Las Vegas performing with Sammy Davis Jr., Lisa Minnelli, Natalie Cole, Smokey Robinson, Mac Davis, Tony Orlando and for 14 years in seven different casinos and toured the nation as the opening act for Frank Sinatra.
As an actor he’s appeared in many motion pictures like Trouble With the Curve, Spaceballs, Man On the Moon, HBO movies Rat Pack and Lansky, and mastered roles on television shows like Columbo, Touched By An Angel, Murder She Wrote, Facts of Life and WKRP in Cincinnati.
The first 6 years of his career he shared the stage with Tim Reid as America’s first black and white comedy team and as history shows, they were the last. The duo recently wrote a book called Tim and Tom: An American Comedy in Black and White about their escapades touring the nation from 1969 to 1975, which is now in the process of becoming a movie.
Tom’s current book Still Standing. My Journey from Streets and Saloons to the Stage and Sinatra is receiving rave reviews.
He is currently appearing in theaters around the country in his one man show, An Evening of Laughter and Stories of Sinatra, displaying his critically acclaimed comedy skills with his extraordinary storytelling ability. The combination of the two led Chicago Tribune critic Rick Kogan to write, “Brilliant, funny, poignant”.
His manager of over 30 years says, “Tom has lent his talent to over 100 charities including one he founded called Day for Darlene running 26 miles three years in a row to raise money and honor his sister Darlene who was challenged with Multiple Sclerosis. An ex-GI and strong supporter of our troops, he’s performed in military bases all over the world including Iraq. On May 14, 2005 he received the prestigious Ellis Island Medal of Honor Award for humanitarian service to his country.
Daily Variety wrote, “Dreesen is one of the most respected comedians of our time”. Larry Wilde, author of the book, The Great Comedians said, “Excellent material, superb delivery, impeccable timing. Tom Dreesen is the Quintessential
Comedian.” Frank Sinatra said “Tommy is a brilliant comedian and a master, Master of ceremonies.”
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