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Left Coast/Right Coast: There’s no business like show business

Mike Gold is a retired entrepreneur providing his views on various subjects. Photo credit: Nancy Gold.
Mike Gold is a retired entrepreneur providing his views on various subjects. Photo credit: Nancy Gold.

By Mike Gold, a retired entrepreneur "living the dream in the Pacific Northwest." This article was first published on August 12, 2015.

Today I’d like to give you a brief glimpse into the world of show business. Let me start by saying there are few places or experiences on earth that have the peaks and valleys of this profession.

If you go back to your younger days, you probably remember your parents trying to mold you into a person who would please your elders. Just about every parent wants their children to be liked. I suggest that it is this trait, your ability to please others that makes a show business personality.

Over the years, I’ve met and even gotten to know quite a few of these people (more later). To a person, each of these people for one reason or another took away from their childhood the impression that they were failing at this trait. So to a person, they became performers to prove to the people that raised them, that they in fact do please others. Perhaps the most difficult thing for a child to hear (or get the impression) is that they are failing at pleasing others.

Now with that foreboding mountain to climb, a typical show business personality overcompensates by putting everything they have on the line to accomplish this. Let’s look at some of the more extreme examples.

The Americas-Got-Talent TV show, produced (owned and developed) by Simon-Cowell (who is worth a cool $550 million!), is a showcase for hundreds (thousands actually audition) of future show business stars. The interviews they routinely do prior to a new act coming out to be judged shows a white-hot burning desire to be appreciated (a synonym for liked) by the audience and the judges. You can feel the energy radiating from these people and their powerful drive. I argue that comes from deep down within the heart and soul of each of them. They are willing themselves to give it everything they have. You can see the crushing disappointment on each contestant that does not make it on to the next round or the unbridled jubilation when they succeed. Just watch this outstanding performance by Anna Christine auditioning (she’s was only 10 years old when this was taped!). This performance always brings tears to my eyes. She simply “goes for it” with every fiber of her 10 year old body.

Show Business Folk I’ve met:

Pinky Lee. He may be unknown to many born and raised on the West Coast. But he was a very large hit in children’s TV back east in the 50’s. I met him through my father, a musician who worked on his show. Lee was one of the most insecure people I’ve ever met. He would put every ounce of energy into his performances, which were mostly live TV. I remember him sweating profusely on the set to where you didn’t want to come within 10 feet of him. (Old joke: I invented an 11-foot pole – for people you didn’t want to touch with a 10-foot pole).

Bobby Darin. We all (if we’re older than 40 or so) remember "Splish Splash" Darin’s first mega hit. Bobby’s sister (Nina Maffia – I’m not making this up, she married a man named Charlie Maffia – who was the most down-to-earth guy you’d ever want to meet) lived in the same summer community my parents and I lived in from July to September. Darin was always told Nina was his sister, but actually she was his mother. At any rate, I met him a number of times when he would come to visit this community and he would hang out with the “normal guys” including me at the local bowling alley. He seemed possessed (my description) to always be the center of attention. (Not hard for a rising rock and roll super star). Darin always told everyone he expected to be “bigger than Sinatra” and he had the ego to back this up. IMHO, a classic case of overcompensation fueled by his desire to be liked by everyone – and fueled by the severe trauma of his very screwed up youth.

Andy Williams. His very popular TV show was broadcast from an NBC studio in Brooklyn. My father was one of the studio musicians on a number of occasions. Williams singing style (and his on-air personality) were scrupulously designed to appear very laid back. The re-incarnation of Dean Martin’s style. In fact, Williams was also possessed (again IMHO) to carefully nurture this appearance. He was as much a tyrant about maintaining this appearance as one could be. Clearly his singing style pleased just about everyone.

"Moon River" – by Andy Williams remains a standard to this day, 40 years after he first performed it.

Most comedians (and other performers) will say, “I killed them” after a great performance. The psychology of this remark is embedded in their desire to control the crowd – in other words – to be liked and accepted by them. Most performers (or public speakers as well) love the “power” that comes from controlling a crowd. However, you have to be prepared to accept a lot of rejection as you learn to do this. The question is, are you prepared to put yourself out there while attempting this? Few are. Also don’t forget that the financial reward if you succeed is very high. The Beatles are worth a couple of $billion each beyond Simon Cowell’s mere $550 million.

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