Agents and managers and heroes and villains.
In a recent blog I wrote some general thoughts on the various people you will work with as your career develops. I got some great responses from readers about my very simplified primer on this subject matter. This week I thought I would look at the general topic again from a less objective and more existential viewpoint.
The very first manager I worked with was a genial and smart man who was known as ‘JP’ to all his clients and friends. He received my press kit in the mail and was impressed that I had performed for members of the British Royal family. He saw this as a great selling point and it became an even bigger feature in my next press kit. From 4-7 pm from Monday to Friday, ‘JP’ and his current group of confidants assembled in the bar of the French restaurant ‘Maison Gerard’ nestled in the shadow of Universal Studios. A lot of really great people were part of this floating ‘happy hour’ party and a lot of good business took place during these nightly sessions. I was pleased to discover that my new manager was improving my bookings substantially during this period. Yay.
Eventually the work slowed down, and my final gift from JP was in 1977 when he sold a murder mystery book I had co-edited called ‘Sleight of Crime.’ It turned out to be the start of a new career for ‘JP,’ he moved to Chicago and became a very serious literary agent. He was a natural in the literary world and went on to sell many books and screenplays.
Many years later, I happened to meet up with one of my fellow acts from ‘JP’s’ old client list, and they passed on his current phone number. When I phoned up ‘JP’ to say hi, he casually mentioned that during my years with him as a client his business had been a front for the CIA, who were utilizing him to spearhead an investigation into organized crime. Hmmm, who knew!
My next management experience was a big time deal, I was the ‘pocket client’ to a manager in one of Hollywood’s top companies. Other clients included Linda Evans, William Shatner and Joan Collins. The Management contract netted me a great deal of money and introduced me to a strong publicist who did a great deal to promote my career. This was when my television career really took of. The entire thing went to hell when my manager took my best friends live-in girlfriend out for breakfast and then by evening she had moved in with him. I ended up loosing both a best friend and a great manager. Grrrr.
At a later time I experimented with hiring a publicist and an entertainment attorney to handle my career. This worked quite nicely but ultimately I needed an agency to bring in more leads. At this point I had a pretty high profile from my television dates and I signed with ICM, which was one of the two giant entertainment agencies. It should have worked great, however I quickly wished my friends girlfriend had moved in with my agent instead of my manager.
I can’t really say that ICM did anything much for me during our two-year contract, in fact I later discovered they had refused to consider or negotiate dates for me that I would have said yes to in a heartbeat. One thing that my responsible agent did do was to hook me up with my next manager. The new manager was the man who had represented Harry Blackstone Jr. and the idea was that we would continue along the agent/manager path that they had used to sell Harry. Hmmm, it didn’t turn out that way.
I later discovered that the manager they had paired me with was worth less than zero to my career. He was charming, chatty and British—-wait a minute, that’s what I brought to the deal! Years later I discovered that I had been thrown to this particular manager because he had set up a deal for cheap roofing for three of the agents at ICM. Bastards.
I have also tried working with small boutique agencies, which in my case seemed to work out the very best. I think I can honestly say, I tried almost every variation that a resourceful performer could imagine. Sometimes it worked well, sometimes it didn’t—the one thing I am convinced of is that it is the performer who needs to keep the ultimate overview needed for his career to flourish.
If the performer has a vision for the future, he needs to hire the people who can make it happen. Never forget that it is the performer who does the hiring; agents and managers like to make it appear that the reverse is true—it is not. The buck stops with the performer……