LOS ANGELES — I have shopped all over the world: in Toronto, I shop at Rochester Big and Tall. In New York, Rochester Big and Tall. In London, Rochester; Chicago, Rochester. Being 6-foot-4 with 37-inch sleeves, my choices in clothing have been pretty limited. At most big and tall men’s stores, Nehru jackets are just coming into style.
That was a bit of a problem when I was a personal manager and knew that there’d be some “Hollywood” people judging me on my “look.” Though I love dressing well, most clothing stores are fashion museums to me, and stylish clothes the artifacts.
I compensated with ties. I became known for having an amazing tie collection: thin, wide, vintage and new. While designer threads were out of the question because they weren’t made in my size, I got people to focus on the one fashion accessory where I could compete.
Instead of accepting my limitations, I concentrated on the positives.
Similarly, as a personal manager, my job was to change an artist’s dreams into goals into realities. And I did it by concentrating on what I did best—recognize personalities that could be developed into stars—and showcasing their positives to producers and studios.
Craig Ferguson, for instance, is known to millions of television viewers as the super-confident host of CBS’ The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson. But Craig wasn’t so confident when it came to auditioning when he moved here in 1995; in fact, he hated it so much that I had to pay him $100 every time I wanted him to do so.
So I concentrated on getting him meetings. A set of meetings with NBC execs got them interested in doing a development deal for his own sitcom, but first they asked him to audition to play the Latin photographer in the then-casting new Brooke Shields series.
Not surprisingly, the feedback I got from the casting director was that Craig—from Glasgow, Scotland—wasn’t Latin enough. But would, I was asked, Craig be interested in auditioning for the producers of The Drew Carey Show? The show was adding a “boss” character for its second season.
“No,” I answered, “I’ve already given Craig $100 today so he’d audition for Suddenly Susan, so it’ll have to be a meeting.” After the casting director stopped laughing that a manager was actually paying an actor to audition, the meeting was set up, and Craig spent the next six years as Mr. Wick, Drew Carey’s difficult but hilariously funny employer.
Knowing that Craig needed to raise his “celebrity quotient” so he’d avoid auditioning later, I also had him become a regular on the talk show circuit. It worked perfectly: when the Late, Late Show was searching for a new host, its first list was made from favorite guests. Not surprisingly, Craig was on that list.
Craig wasn’t thrilled even with this tryout. Though we’d long stopped working together, I contacted him to wish him luck. He was talking about not wanting to do it. “Fine,” I told him, “just let it be your choice. Do the job you know you can do, they’ll offer you the job, and then if you don’t want it, turn it down.” Not surprisingly, he didn’t turn it down.
This is an easily transferable concept, one I’ve brought up before. If you are a good marketer, concentrate on that and maybe consider an alliance with someone with terrific operational skills. But most important: instead of fretting about your shortcomings, realize that your skills are what becomes your meal ticket.
Now if anyone can convince Prada and Armani to make clothes in my size (and my price range), I’d be much obliged.