Archive for the ‘Television’ Category

Service of Can You Go Home Again? Do Revivals Work for Businesses Like FAO Schwarz or the Playboy Club or Comedies?

Tuesday, September 4th, 2018


I’m intrigued by the concept of revivals. Two once successful businesses that closed are attempting them now–FAO Schwarz and the Playboy Club—and a prominent theater critic wrote in his Neil Simon obit that they don’t work when it comes to comedy.

Charles Passy covered the Schwarz and Playboy stories in Wall Street Journal articles, “FAO Schwarz Is Set to Return, And It Needs People to Dance on the ‘Big’ Piano– Midtown Manhattan store will be staffed with demonstrators, magicians and men and women playing costumed roles, including toy soldiers” and “Playboy Club Returns to New York, Bunnies and All, but Will It Hop? Industry experts question if the club’s concept will still work, as it comes back to the Big Apple after a three-decade absence.

Hugh Hefner and bunnies. Photo:

I have memories of both. On a visit to FAO Schwarz with a first grade classmate and her mother the girl pointed to Santa and reported to my six year old self that he didn’t exist. I attribute happier recollections of the store with gift reconnaissance for my nephews. As for the Playboy Club, it paid bunny wait staff four times what other jobs I’d applied for after college offered. The reaction I’d expected from my father—he’d had a fit when he learned I’d modeled fully clothed for an art class—was only one of several good reasons I didn’t pursue the opportunity.

Terry Teachout’s Neil Simon obituary began “All comedy dates, and every pure comedian sooner or later becomes passé—even one as beloved as Neil Simon.” After “Lost in Yonkers,” wrote Teachout in The Wall Street Journal, “Mr. Simon would never again write a full-fledged box-office smash, and none of his plays has since been successfully revived on Broadway save as a star vehicle. His last bow there as a playwright, a 2009 revival of ‘Brighton Beach Memoirs’ directed by David Cromer, closed after nine performances.”

Photo: Playbill

Teachout observed: “And while his plays remain popular with amateur troupes and smaller companies elsewhere in America, most of the major regional theaters tend to steer clear of his work.”

In an op-ed piece in the same paper associate editorial features editor Matthew Hennessey wrote that theater today is “dominated by crowd-pleasing jukebox musicals and adaptations of popular movies. In the last few decades of the 20th century, Simon, who died Sunday at 91, was a household name.” proved Hennessey’s assertion. A headline last week was “Jerry Zaks will bring Mrs. Doubtfire musical to Broadway.”


Hennessey continued: Simon’s “domination of the Great White Way from the 1960s through the ’80s has no contemporary comparison. The current toast of Broadway, ‘Hamilton’ creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, has staged two original hit shows in a decade. In 1966 Simon had four plays running in Broadway houses at the same time.”

Do you think that FAO Schwarz and Playboy Clubs will/can fit today’s customers? What about revivals of once popular comedies–do they all become passé? Perhaps “Mash” and “Honeymooners” fans, or those who tune in to the TV version of “The Odd Couple” –derived from Simon’s play–don’t buy tickets to Broadway or major regional company theaters because they are simply too old or too poor? Or maybe laughter is out of fashion on the Great White Way?


Service of Behind the Scenes

Monday, November 28th, 2016

Meteorologist Vanessa Murdock

Meteorologist Vanessa Murdock

Years ago I represented a company that provided home care and I read a lot of material about nursing. One study about hospital staffing in the day found that during an emergency, nurses in an overstaffed institution couldn’t rise to the occasion because the sluggish pace they were used to worked against them; if too bare bones they couldn’t stretch anymore to confront a crisis effectively but staffed to perform at a brisk pace, they could step up seamlessly.

I often think of this when I attend a successful event or watch a live TV news program both of which have many parts. Here are two examples of perfect staffing and behind the scenes planning and timing.

My clients Joanna and Richard Rothbard, American Art Marketing, juggle relentless periods of monthly craft fairs–September through December–involving hundreds of individual exhibitors each with special requests and requirements for space, lighting and help with moving in and out of a venue for starters. [And this is only one of their several businesses.]

Prima donnas are universal. They cause distractions that need attending to as do electricBehind scenes papers with prices glitches and arguments between exhibitor neighbors. I was at a reception desk at the recent craft show at Brooklyn Museum on the second morning when an exhibitor arrived with a hand truck stacked with boxes filled with product. She was barking orders at the air in our general direction demanding help to carry them to her booth without a please or thank you or regard for the fact that each person there had other assignments. A staffer emerged and took over the chore with a smile. The exhibitor never came back to return the hand truck to where she borrowed it from museum personnel and yet the eyesore disappeared.

I wonder, in the second example, if anyone thinks of all that goes on behind the scenes to deliver a flawless newscast? The process is like a well orchestrated dance. And although split-second timing is crucial, the crew and anchors at CBS 2 News Saturday Morning recently appeared composed in spite of the hour–6 a.m.–and the fact that their jobs are never the same two days in a row.

Andrea Grymes, left, Cindy Hsu right and Richard Rothbard far rightNevertheless the calm in the studio the morning we were there for a show and tell of what visitors to the craft show would see later that day was palpable. Andrea Grymes [left, in red] and Cindy Hsu [right] took time to introduce themselves to us before settling in. Before they’d arrived on the set, the crew had already helped the Rothbards [photo below, right] set up the jewelry, fashion accessories, decorative items and sculpture they’d chosen to give the audience a taste of what was for sale that weekend in the Museum’s handsome Beaux-Arts Court. I had made slips of paper with an image of each item, the name of the artisan and price which we pinned to the tablecloth. Richard didn’t need this crutch, but my philosophy is to anticipate any contingency I’d appreciate–such as finding a blank when fishing for a name or fact when under pressure.

Pulling the strings was the producer, Kizzie Pegues, who began prepping American Fine Craft Show Brooklyn Museum co-producers Joanna and Richard Rothbardfor the special segments in the show long before the day. She’d woven in video to bring additional visual impact to the American Fine Craft Show Brooklyn Museum segment. She was so much behind the scenes that we didn’t see her on the set. The set director called countdowns like mini rocket takeoffs to ensure picture perfect transitions between taped and live segments and the camera operator manipulated a giant piece of equipment with the ease of a child’s toy and the precision of a brain surgeon.

I’ve directed events for clients and the associations I belong to so I appreciate the work of these experts. On a far smaller scale, I like being a guest at my own dinner parties which also takes advance work. Have you been a witness or part of projects where what goes on behind the scenes is crucial to the outcome? Are there exceptions where what happens behind the scenes is irrelevant?Dinner table Thanksgiving turned

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