Monday, September 17, 2012

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

I’ve always believed in this old saying. It seems like doing what you feel is the right thing can really come back to hit you hard. In this case I was blindsided.

I don’t want this to be a completely negative thing so before I get into what has happened I would like to thank everyone for their support of my friend Caleb Medley. Your outpouring of generosity, concern and love for him is like nothing I’ve ever personally experienced. In a very dark time your light shined brightly and kept me from being even more afraid than I already was.

I owe all of you a debt I will never be able to repay.

I had prepared this thank you letter for a "public statement" of sorts and want to share it with you.

Going to a movie should not be a life and death decision, yet that is exactly what it ended up being for Caleb Medley.

Caleb is not the kind of person that ever looked for trouble. In fact he is one of those people that everyone seems to like. Not because he tried to be everything to everyone; because he is a unique individual who lives his life in a good way. Always staying true to his morality his approach to life is an honest one.

That’s what makes Caleb’s situation both compelling and tragic. He was living his life in a way anyone would be proud of. He was responsible, honest, loved by those who knew him and at just 23 years of age he was at a point in his life where he was beginning to live his dream.

Not many people can say that.

I tell you all that to tell you this...

I really have no words to adequately describe how grateful and thankful I am for what you’ve done.

I know Caleb well enough to know that if he were conscious of what was going on right now he would be humbled and grateful by the extent of your generosity and interest in his life.

The words "Thank You" just do not seem to be enough.

I can only say that you have made a difference in the life of a young man that is truly worthy of your help.

Now onto what has just happened...

As I write this I am in Fremont County Colorado. It is the very first time I have been able to come back since Caleb was shot. I had gotten some work to finance the trip back and could not have been happier for it. I am not a wealthy person by any means, I barely get by. There was no way for me to get back here unless I had some work to pay for it. Otherwise I would have gone back the day I found out Caleb was shot.

All I wanted to do while I was back here was see Caleb. I reached out to the family on Tuesday and received no response to my request. I followed up several times and finally received this from Caleb’s brother Seth. I am posting it unedited as I received it.

Only friends and relatives. You know. Family. People who support and genuinely care for his recovery. Not people who see this situation as an opportunity to grab some fame or fast cash like you. You had me fooled, Vilmos. I honestly thought you were a decent guy, but you tried to commercialize my brother while he was "still a hot enough topic to make some money". So that, not some big conspiracy or family vendetta, is why you cannot and will not see Caleb. As far as Im concerned, you should never even try and contact us again, but its ultimately Calebs decision and since he can't make that decision, we as a family feel you should keep your distance.

I will say this about the above statement. I have pretty thick skin. I was in banking/lending from 1979 – 1987; my "specialty" was loan collections. I’ve been a comedian since 1992. I’ve had a lot of people go out of their way to hurt me; some have succeeded.

Seth if you were striking out to hurt me you certainly succeeded. I honestly can’t remember anything ever making me feel worse than what you wrote; congratulations.

In the past I have fired back at things like this. I have done so with vicious words or actions and made sure the person who had wronged me felt the pain I did. I just don’t have that in me. This situation has truly worn me out emotionally. I have been sick with worry and fear since I heard what happened and truthfully no one in Caleb’s immediate family has been sensitive to how I feel.

I have been made to feel like some sort of "outsider" and this message is clear evidence of that. All I’ve ever wanted to know was how Caleb was. They have never been forthcoming with that information. I have always had to find out from someone they told. Whenever I did heard something from them it was nothing more than what they had already told the media.

With that in mind I feel the need to respond to this as my integrity has been challenged.

"Only friends and relatives. You know. Family. People who support and genuinely care for his recovery."

I don’t need to explain my relationship with Caleb to anyone. All you have to do is watch Caleb’s episode of "Caleb Saves the Internet" when we went on the road to do comedy shows. Or listen to the episode of the Green Room podcast when he talked about our relationship.

"Not people who see this situation as an opportunity to grab some fame or fast cash like you."

Let’s consider the fame part of this statement first.

Unlike the Medleys I have taken the time to do this thing called a Google search and (as of the time of this writing) found out the following:

A Google Search of "Caleb Medley" and Vilmos returns 356 results
A Google Search of "Caleb Medley" and "Michael West" returns 19,200 results

Who is getting fame here? It’s certainly not me. I have not done one television interview and did maybe 5 or 6 radio appearances which all consisted of telling Caleb’s story. I never spoke about myself in any of them; I just wanted to get Caleb’s story out there. I would have to estimate my actual news interviews (including newspapers) at 10. I haven’t even been able to go to one event held for Caleb; I have had to grieve alone.

I did not seek out nor do I want fame for this. Michael West has clearly been the star of this. I saw no opportunity here and the numbers show that. You may be wondering why there are there 356 results then. Most of them are the mentioning of my name in articles because I created the Support Caleb web site; they weren’t interviews with me.

Now let’s consider the "fast cash" portion of this statement.

I have made no money from this event. In fact, I was not asked nor have I given any input regarding money in this situation. All the choices for that were done by Otis, Caleb’s father. I live a thousand miles away.

I have not received nor will I ever receive any benefit for this and for the record I don’t want anything either. The reality is quite the opposite; I have been so upset and consumed with all this that I have been unable to get any work done. I have projects I have put on hold to lend my support here. I only get paid when I work; this has killed me financially.

"but you tried to commercialize my brother while he was "still a hot enough topic to make some money"

First off the statement "still a hot enough topic to make some money" is a ridiculous interpretation of what I told Otis in a conversation we had on Wednesday July 25th. My statement was "we have a window of 5 days here".

What I was referring to was that we had 5 days to get Caleb’s story out. After that the media and the public move on. Anyone that watches TV, reads a newspaper or browses the Internet knows this. To believe I wanted to "commercialize" Caleb is ridiculous. I knew then as I know now that Caleb needs every bit of support we can get for him. That’s why I made the web site and that’s why I worked so hard to get Caleb’s story out there. So people could know who Caleb is and how much help he was going to need.

I also don’t care what form that help comes in; prayer, money or words of encouragement. Any of those work for me. But no one can do any of those things if they are not aware of Caleb’s plight.

I will never apologize for bringing Caleb’s story to the public.

"So that, not some big conspiracy or family vendetta is why you cannot and will not see Caleb.""

Actually there is a vendetta and is been Otis leading the charge all along. I’m not attacking him here just making a statement of fact. I had met Otis on several occasions before this and they were all brief. They consisted of me telling him what a great person I thought Caleb was and him not being able to get away from me fast enough.

The truth is that Otis has never liked me and the reason is a simple one; he wanted a different life for his son. He doesn’t want Caleb to be a comedian and I have been helping Caleb on his journey towards that. I am the enemy because of it.

"As far as Im concerned, you should never even try and contact us again, but its ultimately Calebs decision and since he can't make that decision, we as a family feel you should keep your distance."

That statement has Otis written all over it. I’m being punished for not falling in line.

I can’t do that and as I’ve said before will never apologize for what I’ve done. In fact, I don’t even want a thank you; I never did. I did all this for one reason; to help my friend, someone I consider and love like my own family.

If you can’t understand that, I can’t make you. I will only say this.

What you wrote clearly came from your father. You should take the time to go onto the Internet and do a little reading, watch a little video and listen to some audio. Talk to some of Caleb’s friends who know both of us; ask them. Formulate your own opinion based on what you know; don’t base it on what someone tells you.

Your motivation for all of this is very clear to me. You present yourself as a Christian man; you are the minister of a church. None of your attitude towards me reflects this.

Michael West:
I am offended as an artist that you claimed my work. I didn’t need recognition for it. I would have been happy if you would have just left my name out of the whole thing. Just because I’m a comedian doesn’t mean I seek fame. I have other reasons for being a comic. I would have been happy staying behind the scenes. It was you who drug me into this by time and time again saying that you developed or helped me develop the web site. You know you had nothing to do with the concept, implementation, design or generation of the site. I believe this kind of thing shows what kind of person you truly are. I don’t need to say any more.

I have no words for you; I am just confused. You sure have your hands full. I thought of everyone even though we don’t know each other well through Caleb you understood what he means to me and would have honored that. I give to you all the understanding I have; if Caleb loves you that’s good enough for me.

If there was such a thing as a parent lottery you have won the grand prize. You have great parents and my hope for you is that you have an unbelievably rich life.

Dude I miss you terribly and think about how I can help you each and every day. Regardless of what has happened here I will do whatever I can for you. You of all people know how I am and I hope that you will forgive me if from time to time I make the mistake of allowing my feelings to guide my reaction to the events playing out here. My promise to you is that I will do my very best to keep things in check.

I also hope your recovery from all this comes out exceeding everyone’s expectations. I know this is something you have in you; it’s something you can do. You are my family and I love you for who you are.

I will see you on the other side of this and I hope someday we will be able to share a stage again …

Vilmos has been a standup comedian since 1992.
He created a web site with Podcasts by comedians.
He is the host of The Green Room which is the longest running Podcast on standup comedy.
He also hosts The Mentorist v2 and The Spew.
His web site is
Follow him on Facebook at or Twitter @vilmosthecomic.

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