By Patty Fantasia
Personal Managers Interchange Rocks Las Vegas
The Downtown Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas provided the venue for the Personal Managers Interchange held on May 9 - 10, 2018. The annual conference brings together entertainment, music, sports and talent managers for panel discussions, networking opportunities and the organization's induction ceremony honoring those who have set a standard of excellence in the field.
Several panels concentrated on specific areas such as marketing, contract negotiation and diversity/discrimination. Following a breakfast buffet and registration the first panel the "Social Media Puzzle," kicked off the conference. Moderated by Clinton Billups, National Conference of Personal Managers President, speakers consisted of Chris Hardin, owner of Hardin Bourke Entertainment, Debbie Harris and David Mayne of PiMedia Management and yours truly representing Jeff Grinstein Management. Debbie talked about defining social media objectives then she and Hardin spoke about being proactive and using spider webs to facilitate getting information into multiple feeds. I touched on distinguishing news from gossip while Mayne talked about social media budgets referring to the medium as a beast that you have to keep feeding.
The "Wonder Women" panel was moderated by Las Vegas FOX 5 TV personality Brenda Prinzavelli, who joined Rita Powers of Powers Management, Barbara Gale from Barbara Gale Talent, DCA Productions Gerri Abrahamsen and Daryn Simons from Cohesive Entertainment Group. Focusing on the use and abuse of power in the industry, topics varied from Harvey Weinstein's destructive behavior to the need for protecting children in the industry and the positive shift towards diversity.
"A Conversation with Eric Gardner" ended the day's panels. The Founder/CEO of Panacea Entertainment, who has managed clients such as Richard Belzer, Todd Rundgren, The Grateful Dead and Paul Schaffer had lots of insights to share. Gardner's career started over 48 years ago with a blues band called Almond Joy, who later became The Allman Brothers. After recording an album the band opened for Jethro Tull at the Fillmore and invited Eric to join them. He began volunteering at a radio station where he garnered attention by convincing the Grateful Dead and the Jefferson Airplane to come and perform. Six months later he went on tour and never looked back. Paid per show to handle certain responsibilities, Gardner realized that managers should be doing these duties, although the only actual manager he had heard of then was Jackie Gleason's mother. Out of this chaos Eric built an enviable career and has since diversified from rock and roll into film and television.
Talking Head Jerry Harrison accepted the award for his manager Gary Kurfirst at the Personal Managers Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony - Photo credit: Patty Fantasia
Day one ended with a SAG-AFTRA sponsored Welcome Reception. Thursday began with a breakfast buffet and "chat and chew" presentation from returning speaker CPA Frank Page of CWA Management who updated attendees on how the new tax laws are affecting nonresident alien athletes and entertainers.
Day two's first full panel on "Personal Branding" followed with Allen Media Strategies President Burke Allen; Versa Manos, president of Gorgeous Media Group and Talent Managers Association President; and Avida Buyomb from Steinberg Talent Management weighing in on what it takes to brand an artist in the digital age.
Next up was the "Tech Update" panel with film/TV producer Chris DeFranco from QuietFilm and Allan Davis. the general manager from Audio Visual Advisors, who briefed attendees on what they need to know to be savvy when dealing with producers working with their artists.
The "Press Button" panel, comprised of CelebrityAccess Senior Editor, Joe Reinartz and NCOPM National Secretary Peggy Becker, who manages "Stranger Things" star Gaten Matarazzo, returned to the marketing theme. Reinartz spoke about using an event's press release to ensure media awareness and stressing the use of personalization, hyperlinks and graphics.
The final panel of the conference was the "Wild Card." Sharing the stage with moderator Daniel Abrahamsen were NCOPM Executive Director Barry Bergman from Barry Bergman Management, Gold Mountain Entertainment President Ron Stone, Jeff Grinstein Management CEO Jeff Grinstein, and the renowned Eric Gardner. Aside from discussing legal issues and contracts, they recounted some of their favorite memories. Grinstein related that he loves being part of music events that turn out to be historical, while Stone spoke about Ziggy Marley's tribute to Bob that took place in front of thousands on a beach in Jamaica. Gardner advised mastering all areas including publicity and business management and Bergman's suggestion was to follow your bliss and do the things you really believe in.
The event ended with the Personal Managers Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, the highest recognition that can be bestowed upon entertainment, music sports and talent managers. This year's honorees were Barry Bergman, Randy Hoffman, Arnold M. Preston, Esq., Barry Krost, Ron Stone and posthumous inductees Chet Helms, Gary Kurfirst and Aaron Russo. There was also a special presentation done by the daughter of 2016 inductee, the late George Bullets Durgom. After a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem by local Las Vegas songbird Windy Karigianes, Bullets' daughter spoke about her father and read a letter Frank Sinatra wrote about the 4'11" dynamo who wore 3" cleats, went bald in high school, and was known for his great love of people.
Las Vegas singer Windy Karigianes on the Step & Repeat during the Personal Manager's Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony - Photo credit: Patty Fantasia
Anecdotes about Chet Helms came next from Howard Wolf, who accepted his award. Then Talking Head Jerry Harrison spoke about his manager Gary Kurfirst. Acknowledging that dreams do come true in this business, Barry Bergman accepted his red jacket before Randy Hoffman claimed his award quoting client John Mellencamp who said, "keep it small, but keep it going." Arnold M. Prescott talked about how he didn't see receiving his jacket as being inducted, but rather being included as one of a very special breed of people.
After joking about how his new jacket resembled ones worn by cashiers, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young Manager Stone summed up the role of manager best by saying that putting the time and energy into someone really talented was incredible, rewarding and fun.