The Day a Limo Changed My Life

white stretch limo broadway As I prepped for my Producing 101 Tele-Seminar this past weekend (which started last night and was a blast – and not too late for you to sign up), I did a lot of thinking about the moments in my producing career that helped shape me as a Producer.

There was the Hal Prince story, the  $100,000 investor story, and of course . . . the limo story.

You’ve never heard me tell the limo story?  That’s because I never tell it.

But I’m going to today, because it’s a great reminder that Producers face all sorts of challenges, from raising millions of dollars, to coming up with marketing plans to make sure we can sell enough tickets to recoup those millions of dollars.  But it’s the simple ones that really make you sweat, and that teach you how to think on your feet.

And this one involved a white stretch limo and the Altar Boyz.

And it taught me more about producing than anything else up until that moment.

I had planned a huge press event for the signing of the cast recording of Altar Boyz, the second Off-Broadway show that I produced. Now, I’m a bit of a “stunt-man” when it comes to press.  And to make our signing a bit special (and press worthy), I challenged the Backstreet Boys to a “Boy Band Battle” and invited them to show up at Virgin Megastore to see who the better boy band really was–them . . . or the Altar Boyz.

I wrote a letter and took out an ad in Time Out challenging them to show up.  I sent emails, faxes . . . letters.  When they didn’t respond, I even sent them a rubber chicken (for being “chicken” . . . get it?).

For the day of the signing, I planned to have the guys arrive at the Virgin Megastore in a beautiful white stretch limo.  I hired 100 girls to stand nearby with “I <3 The Altar Boyz!” signs and and chase the limo when it rounded the corner.  I got fake fans, fake paparazzi, and even fake security. I had everything.

Except . . . the white stretch limo.

It was supposed to pick up The Boyz and me five blocks away.  But it was late. 5 minutes. 10 minutes. 15 minutes. Very late.

And when I called the company, they couldn’t even locate the driver.

I was about to panic. I was about to scream. I was about to run home, call my mom and tell her I was doing what she wanted and going to law school.

I had hired 125 people for this event.  And there were hundreds of others that were going to show up at the signing!  And the press!

What to do.

I looked around for some sort of transportation. Cabs? Horse-drawn carriages? The Naked Cowboy? No, no, definitely no. And then I remembered that this was Times Square. This was New York City. Certainly there had to be . . .

And I started running up and down the streets looking for people who were driving any kind of fancy car. I started flagging them down like I was pregnant and my water just broke.

And then I saw a white stretch limo coming my way.   I jumped out in the middle of 8th Avenue and pulled him over.

It wasn’t ours.

But it turned out the driver had an hour to kill before an airport run. And I don’t remember what I said to him, but he agreed to help. And he didn’t even want the $100 I offered.

My Boyz jumped in the back (they had no idea the original limo didn’t show), and we made our grand entrance with 100 screaming teenage girls with signs proclaiming their love for the Altar Boyz behind us – and about 500 people from Times Square who walked in just because of the commotion – and the limo.  Success!

Until now, everyone thought that the event went off without a hitch.  And for me, that’s what a Producer has to do . . . solve problems, without anyone ever knowing there is a problem.

And that limo (or lack thereof) taught me so much about how to produce Broadway shows.

Because you see, the challenge of producing shows or producing anything . . . is that half the time things don’t go the way you plan.

But for me . . . that’s when things get fun.

 

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Comments
  • Mark Nassar says:

    A producer parable if there ever was one. Great stuff.

  • Dana Vance says:

    Dear Ken!
    Love your blog! I want to invite you to a reading of my new play with music called “The Bitches of Ditmas Park”…it’s about dogs!! It’s hilarious, adorable and very entertaining! Please mark your calendar for Tues. May 13th @ 6:30, Chelsea Studios, 151 West 26th Street, bet. 6th & 7th, NYC. love to send you a flyer! you won’t be disappointed! Sincerely, Dana Vance

  • Jaz Dorsey says:

    Mine was the drag queen who was so big that there was no room for the rest of the cast in what passed for our dressing room. I had to secretly agree to pay for taxis so that the gal could dress at home and get to the theatre in good shape.

  • George says:

    Oddly enuff – there was a “Big Limo” event at the Met this last weekend:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/06/arts/music/from-butterfly-to-boheme-in-a-flash.html

    Kristine Opolias stepped in on a few hours notice to take role of Meme when Anita Hartig had to bow out….

    Imagine you are called – hours before a performance – that would be Internationally Broadcast to millions around the world – and you only had a couple of hours to prepare…

    And not just a “song” or two (or acting with a book offstage) but singing non-stop Opera where every note has to be in synch with the orchestra…

    What’s more – Opera fans are not “casual” fans – just reading through the comments, you could scarcely imagine that the people who commented have any idea what they are talking about – when it comes to walking onstage with no rehearsal and having to follow the conductor as if there is no “conductor” out there…

    It was like watching a High Wire Act by a Lady who had done this before… sometime in the past… but on a different wire… and, Oh Yes, in lock step with the Circus Band… a thousand feel below…

    Kudos Kristine!

    Bravissimo!

    g

  • Thanks for reminding me, an over-planner, that it’s OK when work/life doesn’t go as anticipated. I also admire your creative marketing tool of a rubber chicken. I campaigned my way off college wait lists by overnighting homemade sugar cookies (with homemade frosting in the schools colors of course) across the country.

  • Ellen Orchid says:

    The limo story is great; how smart and persistent you were to flag down another limo. You can make things happen and you never, ever give up. That is a great, inspirational story.

  • Zanne Hall says:

    Terrific pluck, Ken. That’s what life is about: making lemonade out of lemons. Most of the time we don’t have the luxury of things going our way and have to deal with the reality of the situation and bending and tweaking so that we still move forward with plans.

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