Are you all excited about the first Spotlight On YOU Open Mic, coming up THIS FRIDAY???
To get you more excited, I want to tell you a bit about our wonderful featured performer that is kick-starting 2018 with us, Richard Skipper!
Most of you probably already know him, but for the benefit of those who doesn't, here is a bio for starters.
"Multi-award winner and critically acclaimed Richard Skipper has an almost 40 year career which has taken him from South Carolina to New York to Hollywood and all points in between. He is an entertainer, raconteur, arts advocate and theater historian. Under the guise of Richard Skipper Celebrates! he has conducted over 700 interviews celebrating people in the arts. Recent interviews have included Joyce Bullifant, Linda Purl, Don Most, Melissa Manchester, Lesley Ann Warren, Loretta Swit, Tippi Hedren, Rich Little, and David France, author of "How To Survive A Plague", Patty Farmer, author of "Starring the Plaza" and "Playboy Laughs". He is currently artist in residence at The Laurie Beechman Theater in NYC presenting a monthly talk/variety show called Richard Skipper Celebrates produced by Russ Woolley.
In April of 2017, Richard was chosen to introduce 1938's Jezebel starring Bette Davis on stage at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood as part of the Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival with Tiffany Vazquez after sending in a screen test. (available for viewing on YouTube)
Richard was the associate producer of the 2010, 2012, and 2013 Bistro Awards. He produced the late Peggy Herman's CD Release Party at Feinstein's, directed by Peter Glebo and Tommy Tune, and it was an SRO success. He writes under Richard Skipper Celebrates celebrating artists and their body of "worth" with a huge readership.
Richard can be seen in Dori Berenstein's CAROL CHANNING: LARGER THAN LIFE.
Richard also continues to raise money for many worthwhile causes, especially Arts in Education and The Actors Fund.
I met Richard about 7 years ago and to be honest, I can't remember exactly where and
how we've met. However, one thing is for sure, Richard Skipper is someone that you wont forget once you've met him.
One of the things that defines Richard is his BIG HEART, his support of performers and his straightforward personality. You can expect him to always speak his mind and be honest with you. It's what I love about him.
There is a reason why I call this post an "Extraordinary moment with Richard Skipper". I invited him to kick start 2018 because it's about time that someone interviews Richard! He is always the one promoting and interviewing others!
Here is the special interview:
1) Can you share with us an interesting fact that most people don’t know about you?
I grew up in a very small town in South Carolina on a tobacco farm! When I was 13 years old, on August fifth of 1974 I made an announcement to my family, that five years from that day I would come to New York. Please note that I had never traveled or been anywhere before outside of North or South Carolina. I had never flown. However on August 5th, 1979 at the age of 18, with $500 in my pocket. I got on a plane and flew to New York.
I really didn't know anyone here. I stayed with friends of friends. I came to New York on a Sunday, August 5th, 1979 and on that Monday I went out and got my first job. It was a job as a messenger at 55 Water Street down in the Wall Street District. Being a messenger gave me a chance to really learn a lot about lower Manhattan.
My first audition was on August 9th, 1979. It meant a lot to me because I stood in line for hours to be seen by Woody Allen for the movie "Stardust Memories". I didn't get it but in that line, I met this woman named Millie Brown. I called her the 'unsinkable' Millie Brown. We had a platonic relationship that was right out of Harold and Maude. She introduced me to many of my firsts in New York: my first Pastrami Sandwich and the first Broadway show that I ever saw was with Millie. It was the 1979 revival of Oklahoma! starring Laurence Guittard and Christine Andreas. Martin Vidnovic and Christine Ebersole were also in that cast.
Every Sunday, Millie and I would get together , go yo Mass (even though I wasn't Catholic), and then we would go to a different landmark in New York City, like the Statue of Liberty or riding on the Staten Island ferry. It was great to meet someone like her upon arriving in New York.
Another interesting fact that I really want to get out there about me is that I am writing a book on the legacy of Hello, Dolly! I've been working on the book for seven years and I've interviewed over 700 people connected with the show from various productions. Please note that my book is not a linear history, (although a lot of the history is there). It's the experiences of the players and the various shows that they were involved in, with various productions of Dolly. So that's a lot of information for you. Please visit CallonDolly.com for more info.
2) You are a wonderful entertainer, promoter, writer, emcee, producer and SO much more. How did you discover your love for music and realized that it was what you wanted to do?
Again, I go back to growing up in South Carolina. I am a product of 1960's and 1970's television. In those days I grew up with variety shows And THAT was the show business I wanted to be a part of and aspired to.
The interesting thing about cabaret and what I love about cabaret is that cabaret is whatever you create it to be. Unfortunately, there is not a lot of money to be made in cabaret so you better love what you are doing. I do and that's what keeps me going.
I grew up watching the masters like Johnny Carson, Jack Paar, Larry King, David Frost and all these interviewers. Those were the people that I aspire to. Also, when I was growing up in South Carolina, I had a mentor named Florence Epps and she instilled in me that every time I walked on stage that I was carrying the entire history of everyone that went before me. So, in the work that I do and the projects that I really get involved in and I'm getting more and more streamlined. Maybe it comes with age or whatever. I have a very strong vision of what I desire to accomplish. I love, love, love, I live, eat and breathe to be in front of an audience. I also have great admiration and respect for other artists. Each artist is different. I want to share their gifts through my blogs, my interviews, and especially my shows. I know that I post a LOT through social media. However, about 75 percent of my postings are about other people's shows because I really love other performers and I want to see everybody succeed. When one person succeeds, we all do! It's great for audience building. It is not enough for each person to succeed as an island, it should benefit the entire community. It is up to each of us to support each other and succeed together. Without that, there can be no harmony, balance, or unified vision. Even if they are succeeding on their own, they are only cogs in a larger system, and will eventually break down.
I went to see Donna Murphy's last performance in Hello, Dolly! and a friend that was there wrote to me that he kept taking his eyes off the stage to look at me because he was watching my reactions from across the theater because he was getting such a thrill out of watching my enthusiasm of watching the show. Michael Feinstein told me the same thing at Bette Midler's opening night. Carol Channing referred to me as the spine of an audience! At Donna;s closing night, the man sitting next to me said "Oh, my God, your enthusiasm is contagious!". I love to be entertained and I love it when a great artist or entertainer takes me on that journey and there's nothing better in the world for me than that. So, that's what inspires me to keep going with all those things.
3) Do you have a particularly interesting story that you'd like to share with the readers?
A lot of people may or may not know this, but I've had some real bumps in the road with some of the people that I've gotten involved with career wise. That includes agents and managers and producers. All these people who have come on board over the years, who tell me that they want to see me succeed and I guess you know, it's going to sound like I'm blowing my own horn, but perhaps if I wasn't talented, these people would not be drawn to me. The big issue is that in each and every instance, the people who have come along end up not being focused on MY goals and my dreams and my aspirations. It became more about them and their own agendas. Each time that's happened, it's gotten me off course.
Last year and I bring this up for a reason, my producer Russ Woolley came into my life.
Rus has not only has become the best friend I have ever had in this business, he believes in what I'm doing, he has gotten on board on such a level that he epitomizes what a producer should be in this business. He has allowed me with his participation to get my career to soar to heights that I don't think I've ever been able to hit before. I feel that I'm seeing a stride at this point in my life that I've never had before and so I want to give a shout out to him and thank him for allowing me to do this.
Not only are we together focused on my shows and what I'm doing, we are starting to venture out and produce other entities and shows.
I also want to put a disclaimer here to all the people who read this DO NOT APPROACH US TO PRODUCE YOUR SHOWS! We are choosing projects based on what our likes are. If we see something we really believe in then we want to get involved. It's not the same thing when other people pursue us for those opportunities.
I love the creative process. I love working with creative people, Glen Charlow who's our designer. I work with Michael Macci who creates videos for my shows, Matt Skallerud marketing, and I have just hired Jay Michaels as my publicist. Having a great team helps to get those audiences in the door , but if we don't offer the goods, our audiences will not return. All the people that I am connecting with and surrounding and aligning myself with are in alignment with me. I recognize that even though I really can't tell what will happen, I see enough evidence in the present to discuss some possible directions. I find that when we have that same vision and passion, then the doors open. Again, going back to what I said before that many have had THEIR own agenda in the past. I truly believe the current team I have in place now have my success foremost in our actions. My success is OUR success. I cannot do this alone!
So, it has been really great to be able to do what I want to do and pursue my career the way that I decided to pursue it. So, thank you, Russ.
4) What motivates your creativity and passion for life?
I don't know what it is about myself, but I've always felt a heightened sense how little time we have here. One of my favorite plays is "Our Town" and there's a great speech at the end where after Emily has died, she realizes that all these things that we take for granted on a daily basis are gone! The last year alone, with Barry Levitt and John Koprowski. and so many other losses in my life. I'm constantly reminded. I see it daily on social media with at least two or three postings a day has to do with someone's loss. (I really didn't know John that well, but he was obviously a force in the cabaret community). I am sorry for your loss, Natasha.
I'm doing a lot of cleansing in my office right now and I'm going through a lot of papers and I'm looking at pictures from old parties that my husband Danny and I have put together in our 27 years together and it blows my mind how many friends over the years of my life are no longer here. I really have this sense that it's now or never and that's how I live my life. When I get invitations to shows or events, I look at my schedule and immediately commit. Either I'm available or not. When you asked me to do this date, I looked at my calendar and I said, yes, I'm available on this date.
So many people spend their lives going, well, let me see. Let me get back to you. You know, there's a great line from The Music Man in which Harold Hill says to Marian, "You can spend a lifetime collecting tomorrows only to find you have no yesterdays.tomorrows, and you'll find you are left with nothing but a lot of empty yesterdays" That is one of my favorite quotes. Another is 'Argue for your limitations, and sure enough, they are yours."
You have to be responsible but when it comes to opportunities, the more you're open to them , the more these possibilities have a chance of happening. Because of that, it gives me a very positive outlook in terms of how I approach things. If you say 'no' to me that's fine. I move on.
One thing that I want to say in regards to ourour cabaret community that drives me up the wall is this game of 'tit for tat'. "You come see me and I'll come see you". Years ago, Lennie Watts said something that has always stayed with me: "All I owe you for coming to my show is a good performance." When an audience comes to see me perform, I owe them a great performance. I don't want anyone sitting in my audience, feeling that they're obligated to be there because they are doing me a favor or they don't want to hurt my feelings or they don't want to let me down. I want people sitting in my audiences who genuinely want to be there. If you're not interested, don't come and if you're not interested in hearing about what I have to do, be honest with me. All of our audiences should be filled with people who genuinely want to be there. That only happens when you keep putting it out there.
4) Name three things that never fails to put a smile on your face!
Danny, my friends and great entertainment!
5) Share with us what you have in the pipeline for us to be on the lookout for!
54 years ago Hello, Dolly! Opened at The St. James Theatre starring Carol Channing! 15 Days from January 16th, Richard Skipper Celebrates Carol Channing…On the occasion of her 97th Birthday!
Fun Fact # 15 Carol Channing PERFORMED HELLO, DOL-LY! MORE THAN 5000 TIMES.
In January 1964, Channing originated the role of matchmaker and general busybody Dolly Gallagher Levi in the Broadway musical Hello, Dol-ly! The show was a huge success, and Channing later starred in Broad-way revivals and in touring productions, performing the musical more than 5000 times. Even if she was sick, she almost always chose to go on stage, feeling healed by the audience’s positive energy.
January 31st, 8PM, Russ Woolley proudly presents Richard Skipper Celebrates Carol Channing's 97th Birthday (on her actual Birthday!) at 8PM at The Laurie Beechman Theater featuring Diane J. Findlay, Karen Saunders, Wendy Scherl, Christine Pedi, and a SPECIAL guest to be announced SOON! We will be celebrating Carol Channing's life and career through the songs she sang. All under the musical direction of Michael Lavine with Rex Benincasa on percussion, Erik Lawrence on Sax, and Maryann McSweeney on bass. $30.00 cover/$25.00 Food Drink Minimum. This evening is also made possible by Wright Bros. Real Estate of Nyack. https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pe.c/10230842
Please visit RichardSkipper.com for more info
Are you curious to find out more?? Don't miss this rare opportunity to share a special evening with Richard Skipper THIS FRIDAY, January 19th at the SPOTLIGHT!
Pick you song, bring a friend and join us at the Spotlight!!
with all my love!