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Stars and Gripes

So you finally print your poster. Now comes the actual concert. Who goes on first? Who goes on last?


oving into the Purim spirit, I thought this would be a good time to answer a question I often get: People always ask me what type of internal politics goes on behind the scenes of star-studded concerts. First of all, I want to put out there that in general, the celebs I work with are real menschen and defer to each other’s kavod. But some have their meshugassen, and although I obviously can’t mention names because I value my relationships (and there’s the whole lashon hara angle), here’s what I can tell you.

The first item to diplomatically navigate is the advertising flyer. What do you do when you have two stars on the show and they both insist on equal billing? You may ask, “So what’s the problem? Put both names on the flyer.” Well, how do you decide who gets the right side of the page and who gets the left side? Who gets the top line, who goes beneath? Are both names in the same font size? Are they exactly equal? What if one performer has a short name, let’s say, “Ding,” and the other performer has a long name, like, for instance, The San Francisco Philharmonic Symphony? And what if there are three performers, all of whom insist on equal billing? When you think you’ve finally got all that under control, you need to show the artwork to each performer and get their approval first. (In this line of work, I’ve noticed that the bigger the star, the less of a hassle they make — trade secret.)

Okay, so you finally print your poster. Now comes the actual concert. Who goes on first? Who goes on last? Who goes on right before intermission? Who absolutely doesn’t go on right after intermission? (What if there’s no intermission?) Can one performer get more time than another? If two performers are singing together, who introduces them, and in what order? Which adjectives will get used to describe them? One time the emcee introduced a performer as “the one and only.” Which really got the ire of the performer before him, who considered himself “the one and only.” It’s a good thing there were only two of them that night. Can you imagine having to appease the egos of five or ten “one and onlys”?

There’s actually one performer — I can’t say his name, but he lives in Crown Heights and his initials are A.F. — who actually enjoys going on first. His logic is that the audience is more eager and receptive at the beginning of the evening. One smart guy.

When you’ve got all that figured out, you think it’s smooth sailing from there on, but no — the action is just starting. Because you realize that not all dressing rooms were created equal, and not all performers can rehearse at the same optimal time, and sometimes, you think you thought of every last detail, including food for the performers, and then you find out one performer is gluten-free and the other is a practicing vegan.

I’d give the award for creative genius to Mark (Mordechai) Weisz, of Mark Weisz Design. He’s been a graphic artist for many concerts, including the original HASC concerts. (He’s the one who designed the famous HASC “A Time for Music” logo with three musical instruments.) At one concert, he was left with the crazy task of giving equal billing to four performers, but Mark wasn’t daunted. He came up with the idea of putting their names in a circle around the ad, so that it was one continuous ring of names and no one got more or less kavod than the other.

Years ago, I was on a flight to Pittsburgh with two performers to do a concert. As the three of us disembarked, a stewardess mentioned that there was a TV crew from CBS waiting to interview someone on our flight. Both performers immediately started adjusting their ties and clothing, sure that they were the ones who would be interviewed. When we finally reached the baggage claim, we noticed the camera lights were on, and they were interviewing Rabbi Meir Kahane, who happened to have been on our flight. I gotta say, secretly, I had a good laugh. Hey, it’s Adar!

(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 800)

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