How Do I Know If I Have Acting Talent
The first dark-haired actor to get a role in Hollywood was Frank Lingula, which finally broke the trend and opened opportunities for dark-haired actors, as well as actors over 6” tall. If you were too tall or had dark hair back then it was like wearing a pair of brown shoes with a black tuxedo. Also, most of the stars back then were very short in stature, so your height created problems in filming and selections of actors to appear with the stars. There were very few actors over 5‘10 “back then and I was 6’4”. I was constantly told that I was immensely talented, I just couldn’t personally communicate it well consistently.
So Bert Medcalf’s advice became my goal in my life, and I then started to achieve that goal. It’s at this point that I adopted my philosophy of becoming absolutely indispensable in any job I took from this point on, which I dedicated myself to doing. To say that I had a tremendous amount to learn would be an understatement. So to this end, I was successful in landing a job in the mail room of the Greek Theater and the Huntington Hartford Theater (1,021 seats) at Hollywood and Vine and the Greek Theater (5,870 seats) on Vermont Avenue in Griffith Park in LA. It should be mentioned that the Huntington Hartford Theater is now called the Doolittle Theater.
When I started my job in the mail room I was to open the mail requiring tickets to the shows at the Huntington and Greek Theater; by their zip codes and addresses throughout Los Angeles and its adjoining cities and towns and then create a chart showing where the mail was coming from. So each morning when I came to work I opened the mail and created the chart. One of the newbies joked that the staff at the Greek loved to play on the new guy was the fact that Mr. Doolittle was totally color blind. Not knowing this, I created a chart that indicated every geographic location in a different color. So I walked into Mr. Doolittle’s office with my color chart and got told that it was the worst chart he had ever seen, and he basically almost fired me on my second day. After a proper chewing out I was told to go out and do it again. When I left his office, the staff had a great laugh at my expense. But they took me under their wings and showed me the ropes going forward and what to watch for with the boss to stay in favor. Well, the first thing I had to do was get back in favor. So I redid the chart and he was ultimately impressed and happy.
Every morning when I got to work I had about 2 hours to get the mail open and reviewed and charted, as Doolittle would call from home and ask what the report was. You had to get it right because he had the uncanny ability to remember past reports and question anything that didn’t seem in line with previous reports volume. So before you make your report you need to double-check not only that day’s but previous ones as well, The reason it was so important to Mr. Doolittle to know where the ticket sales where coming from geographically was to ascertain where the ticket sales were low, if he noticed that sales where slow in particular area’s i.e. African American, Hispanic and Asian he would instruct me to flood those neighborhoods with discounted tickets for a particular show to boost ticket sales in those zip code areas immediately. I would have to design and print discount coupons within days and hire teams to distribute them in those locations. Another thing he was really good at was each day going into the box office (especially the Greek Theater) and pull the ticket drawers for a particular show, looking at the current volume of unsold tickets and then he would predict the volume of sales going forward, to determine whether we should begin discounting tickets, for that show to ensure, or at least attempt, to increase ticket sales substantially.
One of the things Mr. Doolittle taught me was how to predict ticket sales by looking at the ticket drawers and predict future sales. He also taught me how to estimate how much revenue had been generated from the ticket sales on that day and how much revenue would be raised based on the volume at the point and based on current sales how much revenue would be raised going forward. I got very good at this, so much so that Doolittle would let me go into the box office and report back to him on what I saw and projected volume going forward. I was very quickly able to project advance ticket sales for a particular show, how many tickets were left to sell, how many had been sold by section.
The Greek had three sections A, B & C. You had to be able to report ticket sales by each section. I got so good at this I could predict sales within a couple of hundred dollars. Based on this learned ability I was promoted to Assistant General Manager of the Greek & Hunting Hartford Theaters. It should be noted that the reason I got so good at this was that I constantly volunteered to work in the box office every chance I got. So I studied the advance sales every time I volunteered and those who worked there were more than happy to have me be of help. I also regularly volunteered to work in the production department. I would help paint sets, unload trucks and anything else I could do to get to know everyone in the department and make sure they understood they could count on me when they needed help. One of my duties as the Assistant General Manager was to handle the Riders for the talent performing at the Greek and Hunting Hartford Theaters. I’m not sure why I got this responsibility, but I have to say it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I got to meet the stars and be available to handle any requests over and above what was in their contracts for them. Also part of my duties was the management and ticketing of the Orchestra Pit which was in front of the main stage and had about 30 seats. This was a goldmine for my department. And for that matter myself.
The Famous Greek Theater
Over time I worked with several Super Groups. The Greek Theater was the first theater to present Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young (It was originally just Crosby, Stills & Nash, as Neil Young was added to the group after the original group was booked.) I got to know them and made sure they were pleased with the support the Greek provided them as required in their performance riders, I also got to work with Linda Ronstate, I remember her especially well as she always performed barefoot and we had to provide a Marley floor for her. At the time she was dating the Governor of California and she invited me to a party at his home which was incredible. Present was The Beach Boys, the Carpenters to name but a few. It was easy to get to know the performers, as all the groups would be performing for weeks at the theater. I also got to know everyone from Momma & Popa’s. We were also the first Amphitheatre to book Tom Jones in the USA. Also Engelbart Humperdinck. Both of these performers were managed by their manager Gordon Mills, who wrote most of their songs and wanted desperately to put together a tour for Tom Jones in America. Tom Jones name was Thomas Woodhard and Engelberts was Jerry Dorsey. So the theater got a very special price for both of them to perform at the Greek for a week.
The theater booked them before anyone knew how huge he was to become, I remember Tom’s rider to this day as he loved beer and snacks. I can’t remember the brand of beer but we had to provide a minimum of 2 cases per show and I can attest that he drank both cases each performance. He also had a taste for women of color and we had quite a few in the Orchestra Pit. The deal we had with Tom was awfully good, as we had to renegotiate the agreement before the week was out. He sold out every night. The scalpers were getting rich on this show. Tom was a super guy and easy to work with. His show was the experience of a lifetime as he had incredible energy and by its end, he was exhausted. I never saw so much underwear being thrown up on the stage as I did during Tom’s show.
Because I had control of the seats in the Orchestra Pit I could do very well with those extra tickets. There wasn’t a day I wouldn’t get an offer I couldn’t refuse. I remember two women came into my office and told me that they would give me the night of my life for two tickets in the orchestra pit and a backstage pass. I never took them up on the night of my life even though I wanted to, I but did get them the seats and the backstage pass. They got to say hello to Tom but he wasn’t interested in anything other than that. My most memorable performer the Greek Theater booked every other year was Harry Belafonte, who sold out every show and did so within hours of our announcing his dates. I’ve got to say he was a great person. His shows always ended in standing ovations. Mr. Belafonte and his people were fabulous to work with. His road manager at the end of the show took all the crew to Vegas on Mr. Bellefonte’s plane as a thank you for everyone’s hard work in supporting the show.
Some of my fondest memories weren’t only meeting and working with the stage performers, but also many of the celebrities who would attend the shows. I remember the night in 1969 when the Apollo 11 landed on the moon. The offices at the Greek theater were filled with celebrities. The show at the theater that night was the “Grand Kabuki”. It was the first time the Emperor of Japan had allowed the show to be performed outside of Japan. The reason was the involvement of Raymond Burr, the star of Ironside and Perry Mason. Mr. Burr was the only American actor to become a Kabuki Dancer and a friend of the Emperor of Japan who he convinced to allow the show out of Japan. Also in the office was Gregory Peck and his wife, Robert Ryan and his wife as well and the Newmans.
Note: Not sure about the Newmans being in attendance on this evening, I only remember there being at one of the shows and being entertained in the Greek offices. I was always introduced to and allowed to visit them as I was the one who would show them to their seats.
Let’s continue on where I would tell you how Huntington Hartford Theater is Where My Life Changed