Advice from an Expert: Vol. XV. The BROTHER of the original Producer of Finian’s Rainbow chimes in.

On Monday, I posted an article written by Lee Sabinson back in the 50s.  My press agent remembered that Lee’s brother, Harvey, was just a tad bit involved in the commercial theater as well.  Yep, Harvey Sabinson worked at The League for twenty years, including a stint as its Executive Director, and worked on Broadway for over fifty!  (Just look at those credits!)

A press agent by trade, Mr. Sabinson’s most famous client was . . . Mr. David Merrick.

That means that Mr. Sabinson worked on the Subways are for Sleeping ad campaign, which has been much-ballyhooed on this blog  (you may remember that we had some feedback on the blog from another of the creators of that campaign).

Well, my press agent sent Mr. Sabinson my blog, and like any great former flack, he responded right away (if only all of our current press agents would respond so quickly).

His response was so fitting, that I thought I’d post it here.  So, here’s another expert, giving it to us straight.

Thanks so much for sending me the souvenir book piece written by my brother almost sixty-three years. I remember it well. I was an ATPAM apprentice to Samuel J. Friedman on the original production. Last week, while in New York, I was Jack Viertel’s guest at a performance of the show, which evoked a lot of memories.

But what amazed me was a list of about twenty producers presenting a revival of a show that only two guys did so long ago (and one of them was only an investor). I also bought two tickets for one of my sons for a total of $244. The original orchestra top was $6.90 of which 90 cents was tax.

You’re not the only one who thinks that both of those things are “amazing,” Mr. Sabinson.


The 2nd Annual Producers Perspective Social is tomorrow, and it’s SOLD OUT!

Free drink!  Door prizes include tickets, merch, and a Kindle!

Click here for details.(please note, due to overwhelming demand the Social will now at be Hurley’s Saloon)

Advice from an Expert: Vol. XI. The guy who placed the Subways are for Sleeping ad speaks!

Oh how I love the internet.  It gives you the chance to speak to so many people that you would otherwise never have the chance to, and learn from them.

Perfect example . . .

A few weeks ago, I posted a blog about The Balloon Boy and his dad’s stupidity.  In the same blog I referenced the infamous David Merrick Subways are for Sleeping stunt.

Today I got an email from a gentleman who was the Production Director at The Blaine Thompson Company, a powerhouse ad agency who repped Broadway shows from 1938 – 1977 including the original productions of Gypsy, Pippin, Hair, A Chorus Line, and yes, Subways are for Sleeping.

This gentleman was directly involved with the Ad Heard ‘Round The World, and with Mr. Merrick himself, and was kind enough to share his story in an email to me.

I convinced him to put the story into a comment on the blog itself for all of you to enjoy.

Here it is.  A piece of theatrical history, brought to you by the power of the internet and by people willing to share their story (which is what theater is all about, isn’t it?).

Click here to and scroll down to read the comment from Ron.

What Broadway Producers and Publicists can learn from The Balloon Boy.

What a big balloon bozo.

I’ll admit it. I’m a huge fan of creative “stunts” designed to get your “product” attention.  In a cluttered marketing environment (like, I don’t know, Broadway?) the right story can get you more attention than you could ever afford.

I’ve done a few in my day, from allowing virgins to get in free, to being the first musical to endorse a political candidate, and so on.  Some worked. Some didn’t.  And with some, we were betrayed by hypocritical politicians who claimed they were for the little guy (when the truth was they were only for their own “little guy”).

Regardless of the wackiness of some of the things I’ve done, or some of the things others have done successfully, they were always based in truth, and exaggerated for fun from there.

And no one got hurt in the process by the exaggeration.

Unlike the insanity of the parents of the Balloon Boy.

One of the most famous Broadway stunts is the David Merrick Subways Are For Sleeping poster campaign, where he found individuals with the same names as the biggest critics in town to give him great quotes about the show, and he put these quotes all over the poster.  See photo.

Fun, right?  And truthful.  (The ad also had pictures of the “critics” so he couldn’t be accused of trying to overtly mislead the public – of course no one knew what those guys looked liked in those days anyway).

Was Merrick pushing it?  Yes, but the campaign was also a subtle comment on the value we put in a name, therefore brilliant.

The crazy part is that Merrick got even more press from getting caught than he got from the campaign itself (he admitted that he had come up with this idea years before but he couldn’t find anyone with the same name as Times critic, Brooks Atkinson.  When Atkinson retired in 1961, Merrick was good to go).

And that’s the barometer of whether a stunt is worth doing.

Ask yourself . . . if I get “caught,” will I benefit even more?  If someone busts me, will I look like a balloon boy boob, or an inventive entrepreneur.

If you’re even close to looking like a BBB, then go back to the drawing board.

Start with the truth and use your creativity to take you to heights higher than any BS balloon could take you.