Industry Legends

Industry Legends

Andrea Michaels
President
Extraordinary Events

In August, Event Solutions proudly inducted an inaugural class of 10 industry legends into the Event Industry Hall of Fame. This is the first in a series profiling each of the inductees.

The Awards and Recognitions page of Andrea Michaels¡¯ bio sheet reads like that of any legendary athlete or thespian. To say she has left an indelible mark on the event industry would be an understatement.

Entering her third decade as an event planner and producer, Michaels has climbed to the top of her profession armed with a clear sense of purpose and an unwavering event philosophy that says if you take the time to truly understand the client¡¯s intent, then you hold the key to creating a successful and memorable event.

"I¡¯m famous for saying, ¡®Sell the client what they want to buy and not what you want to sell them,¡¯" she says. "Every event has a purpose, even if it¡¯s not an obvious one. And delivering that purpose successfully is the one and only true key."

Michaels¡¯ ability to conceptualize an event and then exceed customer expectations has been her hallmark and a primary reason why she has produced events around the world and coveted accounts, such as 20th Century Fox, NASA, Pepsi, Eastman Kodak, Mercedes-Benz and Microsoft, continue to contract her services.

Besides her proven track record, Michaels has a background in entertainment and holds a master¡¯s degree in psychology¡ªboth of which play important roles when dealing with customers and planning events.

Michaels has said that she approaches each function as if it were a play, complete with an overture, acts and a finale. Like a theatrical production, a Michaels-produced event is designed to provide its audience with a sense of anticipation, building in excitement and enjoyment before finally ending with a distinct and satisfying conclusion.

"I want each and every element of any project I¡¯m involved in to have content and meaning and a personal experience for everyone in the audience," comments Michaels. "In Vancouver (for the opening of GM Place), when the owners and managers of the arena said, ¡®I want the audience to cry,¡¯ I remembered that in each and every element. The orchestration of what we did was so emotional and impactful that you could watch 22,000 people weeping as they stood and applauded. It was about how the entire event was constructed, flowing and building continuously until you could almost see hearts pounding with energy, excitement and, best of all, emotional investment. Just thinking about it still gives me chills."

Although she is admittedly her own worst critic, which is enough of a barometer to judge the relative success of any event with which she is involved, Michaels does have a simple formula for measuring achievement. "Success is when the audience smiles, applauds and, best of all, years later¡­remembers."

The same can be applied to an extraordinary Hall of Fame career.

First Year in the Industry:
1973

What I thought I was going to be when I grew up:
An attorney.

I got into the business because:
I was a single parent and, at age 28, went back to school to get my degree. I needed money and flexibility. I answered an ad that read, "West Side Entertainment Agency Needs Part Time Help," with this image in mind that I would be applying with William Morris and casting Sean Connery in his next role. Surprise! It was a band leader working out of his apartment.

Biggest event success:
Do I have to give you only one? The opening of Vancouver¡¯s GM Place sports arena, which featured four major events in four days, with the largest being for 100,000 people. The most innovative was the 3 1/2-hour show, which was broadcast live on BCTV and featured more than 750 entertainers.

Worst event disaster:
Only one I can remember. The sound company providing sound for a major show just didn¡¯t deliver. We had a major comic perform, and the audience booed. The entertainer walked off the stage. We salvaged it, but it was not a pretty moment in my career.

Most valuable lesson learned:
Stay calm. Be flexible. Don¡¯t let creativity stop when the proposal is written; keep it infused every step of the way. Take risks.

The best piece of advice I ever received:
When you start your own business, get the best legal and accounting advice you can, follow the letter of the law, get insurance and surround yourself with the very best people money can buy. Treat your business like a business.

.December 2002

I.L. "Jack" Morton
Founder
Jack Morton Worldwide

In August, Event Solutions proudly inducted an inaugural class of 10 industry legends into the Event Industry Hall of Fame. This is the second in a series profiling each of the inductees.

There's something about a live audience. Street performers, stand-up comedians and stage actors are all drawn to the immediacy and intimacy a captive audience provides. They thrive on crowd-generated electricity and will sink or swim depending on people's instantaneous reactions. The same can be said for those involved in event planning and production. The hint of danger that every live event carries provides an adrenaline rush that would be the envy of Evel Knievel or any death-defying X-Gamer. Once they taste it, many can't shake it. They're inexplicably hooked.

Jack Morton caught the bug at an early age and, 80 years later, still hasn't got it out of his system. Born the son of a sharecropper in North Carolina, Morton quickly developed a love for theater and stepped into show business as a 12-year-old, working as an usher, ticket taker, bill poster and sometime janitor in a small-town, silent-movie house. At 18, he was managing an 850-seat theater and helped usher in talking pictures for his loyal clientele.

The Depression years took Morton to Washington, D.C., where he worked his way through George Washington University. Before long, he was organizing and booking dance bands for school dances, society affairs and even presidents.

His experience in theater and music allowed him to begin producing shows for the burgeoning convention industry, and in 1939, Morton founded Jack Morton Productions as primarily an entertainment production company. Today, known as Jack Morton Worldwide, the company has grown into a 25-office, worldwide agency, boasting 800 employees working on four continents.

The company has been a rousing success, in part, because it has never lost sight of the original ideals Morton instilled back in 1939. Then and now, the live experience is the very essence of any work the company performs for its clients.

"In whatever form it comes-be it theater, a meeting, Webcast, or one-on-one conversation-a live experience creates the best learning environment," says Morton, who also credits his company's longevity and growth to its ability to continually adapt and expand capabilities to meet customer needs.

Jack Morton Worldwide has grown to be a leader in experiential brand communications and continues to evolve by utilizing new areas such as mobile marketing and Webcasts. Regardless of the medium, whether coordinating broadcasts via the Internet or selecting music rolls for a player piano, the keys to creating a memorable event have remained remarkably similar to when Morton first started in that North Carolina theater: set measurable objectives, respect the brand and engage the audience.

Morton continues to champion the latter as the ultimate measuring stick for an event's success. At 92, the live experience still holds a powerful allure. "The reaction of a live audience is real," he says. "There's no better measurement than what you can see or hear from a live participant."

With an 80-year, Hall of Fame track record to back him up, who's going to argue?

First Year in the Industry:
I started when I was 12 years old! I began working in a movie theater and later founded Jack Morton Productions in 1939.

What I thought I was going to be when I grew up:
I wanted to be a theater manager, and I became one at age 18.

I got into the business because:
I had a great fascination with the theater, and I loved giving the audience a true, live experience.

Biggest event success:
Winning the business again for the following year.

Worst event disaster:
Nothing is a disaster if you can learn from it.

Most valuable lesson learned:
To observe everything and then use what you see to improve yourself and your work.

The best piece of advice I ever received:
If you're honest and hard-working, you can't avoid success.

February 2003

Raymond Thompson
President, Owner
Images by Lighting

In August, Event Solutions proudly inducted an inaugural class of 10 industry legends into the Event Industry Hall of Fame. This is the third in a series profiling each of the inductees.

Ray Thompson grew up in a family of eight children. As a child, he loved to tinker with the parts from discarded vending machines from his father's business. By the time he was in the fifth grade, he had created and installed a bank of 15 colored spotlights in the wall of his room and built a system to play the lights with music, shooting color out into the room. As a sophomore in, he designed and built a complete lighting system for the stage at his high school. Clearly, he had found his destiny early in life.

Thompson founded Images By Lighting in 1983, and was truly one of the industry pioneers in the ways he has used lighting to enhance, accentuate and add excitement to the world of events. "It was always about lighting to me. I loved it. It was in my heart," says Thompson.

When Thompson graduated from the University of Central Florida with an electrical engineering degree, he says, "I decided if I was going to find my destiny, it would be in Los Angeles, and I accepted a job offer from Hughes Aircraft."

While working in Los Angeles, he designed a lighting project for a friend in Beverly Hills. His friend's friends quickly discovered his talent for lighting, leading to a variety of home and commercial lighting projects. Movie producer Allen Carr was so impressed with Thompson's work in his (Carr's) home that in 1984 he asked Thompson to design the lighting for one of his premiers. The success of the premier led Thompson to team up with the some of the top designers, planners and companies, whose visions gave birth to the event industry as we know it today.

Along this storied journey to his Hall of Fame inauguration, Thompson's projects have taken him to countries all over the globe, and across the United States and Canada. His expertise, creativity and easy conversational style have made him a valued speaker, presenter and lecturer on the subject of lighting.

More importantly, many top designers and producers look to Thompson when they need their event to be edgy or over-the-top! "I work with designers, decorators and scenic designers who are creating worlds," he explains. "I am there to support them. I want people to see the magic."

Thompson and Images by Lighting's excellence has earned numerous prestigious honors and awards. When asked for advice, he says, "I never take so much business that it compromises the quality. I always give something extra to the client that they did not expect. I do that with lighting some aspect of the event that I find is special to me. It is my passion to be able to create with light."

First Year in the Industry:
I created Images by Lighting in 1983, but when I was a sophomore in high school, I designed and built the complete lighting system for my school's stage.

What I thought I was going to be when I grew up:
The first thing I remember wanting to be was a chicken egg farmer.

I got into the business because:
Even in my senior year at the UCF, I wasn't sure if that [electrical engineering] was what I was going to do. I knew it was going to be something with lighting. Lighting was always in my heart. Later, in Los Angeles, a friend admired the lighting design I had created for my home. She asked me to do her home, and that was the first step.

Biggest event success:
I think I have successes every day that
a client is just blown away by one of my projects. However, working with John Daly on the Korean Olympics was one of my biggest successes.

Biggest disaster:
My biggest disaster was also my biggest save. We loaded and rigged all the lighting for a tent party on a hill in Thousand Oaks, Calif. That night the Santa Ana winds blew the tent from its stakes and rolled it with all my lighting into the yard. We climbed through the rolled structure, took out the lighting and reinstalled it in the new tent.

Most valuable lesson learned:
Knowing how color affects people¡­and why. Color plays into events on both a conscious and subconscious level.

The best piece of advice I ever received:
From Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, who wrote that we should find what we love and the money will come.

March 2003

Dr. Joe Goldblatt, CSEP
Dean, Alan Shawn Feinstein Graduate School
Johnson and Wales University, Providence, R.I.

In August 2002, Event Solutions proudly inducted an inaugural class of 10 industry legends into the Event Industry Hall of Fame. This is the fourth in a series profiling each of the inductees.

Dr. Joe Goldblatt graduated from college in 1975 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in theater and business. "I wanted to pursue events as a profession, but there was nothing... no official college program... in events," Goldblatt recollects.

He moved to Washington, D.C. to work as a "nanny," and in his off time dressed as a mime, performing magic tricks for the people waiting to tour the FBI building.

Through this, Goldblatt met his wife, Nancy, who taught clowning and was a performing artist. He reminisces, "We fell in love, got married and started performing as mimes as part of the Artists in our Schools program." For two years, they traveled to schools nationwide, but when Nancy became pregnant, they decided, " ... it was best if we did not travel with our son."

The Goldblatt's began entertaining at special events held by Washington area shopping centers. Their successful performances evolved into producing shopping center events and starting their own company: The Wonder Company, Inc. "Our real motivation was to stay home with our child; to have as normal a family life as possible."

As The Wonder Company grew, they added staff. Goldblatt developed training procedures for their staff and freelancers. "I developed a training program, so that I could manage the business and send trained staffers out to produce events while I stayed in Washington with my family."

The Wonder Company grew in size and reputation. Goldblatt again found himself on the road, away from his family. So, he sold The Wonder Company to a decorating firm in Nashville, relocated there and worked for the new owner a year. With the downturn of the economy, the new owner defaulted and The Wonder Company returned to Goldblatt.

Simultaneously, Goldblatt began his career as an expert witness in the field of events. As he researched cases, the quantity of information available inspired him to develop a curriculum for professional event planners, including writing the necessary texts for instruction.

In 1992, he began exploring colleges and universities as possible sites for this curriculum. The George Washington University (GW) deservedly offered Goldblatt a full scholarship to earn his master's degree and doctorate, plus resources to develop his program, office space and library support.

From 1993 to 2001, the GW program grew from 25 students to 4000. Goldblatt then licensed it as the Event Management Certificate Program to 20 other universities around the world.

When asked why he felt so passionately about creating this Event Management Certificate Program and the ISES Certified Special Events Professional (CSEP) professional designation, Goldblatt responded, "I knew that every industry, in order to be taken seriously, needs a certification program."

In 2001, Johnson and Wales University, with 15,000 students of hospitality, recruited Goldblatt. "They wanted to draw on my expertise in events to develop their program," he comments.

Johnson and Wales also made Goldblatt the Dean of the Alan Shawn Feinstein Graduate School, and today, Goldblatt, affectionately known as Dr. Joe, continues to inspire hospitality students and faculty alike. Goldblatt is also an internationally recognized speaker and has received numerous awards for his work, including his induction into the 2002 Event Industry Hall of Fame.
by Carolyn S. Baragona

First Year in the industry:
1976 was my first year as a professional; however, I produced events when I was in college.

What I thought I was going to be when I grew up:
I thought I would be a producer of the Olympics, the Superbowl or the World's Fair.

I got into the business because:
I liked engaging people, bringing them together and creating mutually beneficial outcomes.

Biggest event success:
I produced the Opening of the Nashville Convention Center and the series of events that preceded the opening ceremonies. I started by designing a series of pre-opening events that brought people to the area and revitalized it. Because of this renewal, the opening event was well attended! I like to produce events that leave a legacy.

Worst event disaster:
In Denver, I once used fog during a gala. Twenty-nine Denver firefighters rushed into the room, carrying axes. The audience stood and applauded because they thought this was part of the show, that these were actors! The fire department ordered the room evacuated, but no one would leave. Everyone was so certain it was an act!

Most valuable lesson learned:
My most valuable lesson is the importance of communication and risk assessment.

The best piece of advice I ever received:
Fellow Hall of Fame inductee Jack Morton advised me, "Create things that endure. Whether it is a friendship or an event, do it so well that it will last."

July 2003

John Daly

John Daly International

In August, Event Solutions proudly inducted an inaugural class of 10 industry legends into the Event Industry Hall of Fame. This is the fifth in a series profiling each of the inductees.

In John Daly¡¯s 37-year career, he has created events around the world: Paris, Korea, Japan and other worldwide sites have been treated to his creative style and humanistic appeal.

Daly reflects upon his global body of work. ¡°Overseas, they don¡¯t do events the same way we do, because they haven¡¯t seen it,¡± he says. ¡°But once they see what we are doing¡­it¡¯s amazing. They really get on board once they understand it. You can¡¯t translate a feeling, but you can translate art. Art has a language of its own.¡± Daly thrives on the interaction with artists of different cultures and languages. He thrills at developing the common communication between himself and the artists, and realizing the vision together.

Who would believe that he started as a part-time florist¡¯s delivery boy working his way through college?

¡°I happened to be at the right place at the right time. From delivering, I began to freelance in floral design. I also worked for what they called at that time a ¡®party shop¡¯ that did a lot of weddings and parties.¡±

In the early to mid ¡®70s, at a time when no such thing existed, Daly decided to open his own company, strictly an event company. ¡°Everybody thought I was absolutely crazy to consider such a thing!¡± He started with 300 square feet of workspace. Within four years, he took over the whole building, ran a fleet of trucks, and had built his team to 35 people.

Daly¡¯s team continuously took events to new levels. There were no specialty linen companies then; they made their own linens. There were no prop houses; they made their own props. ¡°People were stunned, totally stunned. That¡¯s why it worked,¡± Daly mused while considering the early days.

The Beverly Hilton, The Bonaventure, The Armitage all welcomed him as their florist, while he still had his own special events company and warehouse. From his initial venture as one of the original event production companies, Daly¡¯s work has provided extraordinary experiences: Los Angeles¡¯ area great events, the State Department, corporate events around the world, creating the Papal Altars, and most recently, being selected to give roses to the loved ones of those lost at the World Trade Center during the memorial service.

John Daly has not only created a Hall of Fame career, he has created the prototype of a Hall of Fame person: thoughtful, creative, energetic and good.

First Year in the industry:
1966.

What I thought I was going to be when I grew up:
A psychiatrist.

Biggest event success:
I worked with Ray Thompson on an event for Gillette during the World Cup in 1998. We were in Paris, at Chantilly, a place like a miniature Versailles. We created Chantilly as it would have looked during the reign of Louis XIV. We re-landscaped the gardens, installed fountains in the lakes, and filled all the urns with floral arrangements. The guests swept down on an 80-foot by 150-foot long staircase to the sounds of baroque music and a water show. The event was two years in the making. Then all of a sudden, it was there, and it was exactly as we had pictured it.

Worst event disaster:
The ¡°worst¡± began as we were leaving for an event in Hawaii. I locked my keys and the tickets for a crew of 15 in my car, while it was still running. Then, on the island, a hurricane blew in and tore down every single thing we had put up. The rains came. We had roofs blown into the tent. I had ordered thousands of dollars of foliage for the ceiling. It arrived in one small box. So my crew went into the jungle with machetes to chop greens. Two minutes before the guests were to enter, the power was disconnected, and we had to rewire the tent. Finally, as we were packing up the boxes to leave, a bellman was helping with his box cutter. He cut one of my guy¡¯s fingers nearly off. We don¡¯t talk about that event.

Most valuable lesson learned:
Attitude is absolutely everything. How you approach people can make or break an event. Be flexible. I believe that nothing is impossible.

August 2003

Michael Roman
President
Catersource, Inc.

In August, Event Solutions proudly inducted an inaugural class of 10 industry legends into the Event Industry Hall of Fame. This is the sixth in a series profiling each of the inductees.

Michael Roman has become the nation¡¯s leading educator for the ¡°art¡± and ¡°science¡± of catering. During an average year, Roman travels more than 70,000 air miles providing marketing assistance and business consulting to food service companies who offer catering to their marketplace. In addition, each year he teaches over 100 days of public or private educational seminars on all aspects of catering.

Besides having over fifteen years of ¡°hands-on¡± experience managing his family¡¯s catering business in Chicago, Roman is also a college level instructor with a Masters Degree in Education. While a caterer, Roman produced everything from simple box lunches to corporate galas serving thousands! In 1986, after the family catering business was sold, Roman began to teach and consult on a full-time basis. Roman has assisted some of the nation¡¯s largest hospitality businesses as well as hundreds of entrepreneurial catering businesses to accelerate their catering successes! Roman¡¯s greatest strength is to teach proven, useful and daring skills to existing sales teams.

Roman is President of catersource, which is a consulting, seminar, and publishing business helping all types of food service business achieve better profitability. The new catersource Magazine, which is being launched in October, 2003, will add greatly to Roman¡¯s ability to bring education, products and news to professional caterers.

Roman has worked hard to earn the trust of caterers. He has personally visited more catering operations and met with more caterers than anyone else in the food service industry. His mission is to continue to be the most aware educator/consultant to the catering segment of the hospitality industry.

One of Roman¡¯s proudest accomplishments was the writing and publishing of his book CATERING: The Art, Science & Mystery. And caterers like to listen to Mike Roman because he has experienced first hand the ¡°good¡± and ¡°not so good¡± of catering! He is the caterer¡¯s caterer.

First year in the event industry:
My mother was a great Chicago caterer. So, I began working in 1958 for our family-owned catering company, The Mixing Bowl. I left to pursue my own career and returned to manage The Mixing Bowl in 1974 after my parents retired. In 1980, I began to teach national catering seminars for the National Restaurant Association, which led me to where I am today.

What I thought I was going to be when I grew up:
No question about it ... an actor! In many ways, I¡¯ve made it happen. Teaching, which is my first love, is filled with opportunities to act.

I got into the business because:
In the 1980s, there just wasn¡¯t much happening with respect to education or sharing for caterers. I was a caterer who also happened to be an educator, so I saw a niche and went for it.

Biggest event success:
As a caterer, it was an off-premise sitdown dinner served in the foyer of the University of Chicago for Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren E. Burger in 1983 for 700 guests. It was one of those wonderful catering nights where everything went as planned. We got the entree served in less than 9 minutes!

Biggest disaster:
Simple. When I was a young caterer, I forgot a client¡¯s event date. Blew it totally. Learned my lesson. Apologized. Gave her next party for free. She stayed a client!

Most valuable lesson learned:
It¡¯s easier to find new clients then it is to lose contact with family and friends. Business is truly important, but friends and family are our real assets. Learning to keep the proper balance is essential!

The best piece of advice I ever received:
In 1984, a close friend gave me a framed hand-written sign that reads, ¡°Enthusiasm is a catalyst: when added to wisdom and experience, it can form small miracles.¡± This sign still hangs in my office. I¡¯ve always loved the concept of ¡°small miracles.¡±

September 2003

Tom Shapiro
Founder
Academy Tent & Canvas

In August, Event Solutions proudly inducted an inaugural class of 10 industry legends into the Event Industry Hall of Fame. This is the seventh in a series profiling each of the inductees.

Born and raised in California, Tom Shapiro began his college career in Tucson at the University of Arizona. ¡°Initially I was a veterinary medicine major at the U of A. But I transferred to USC after creating an explosion in a chemistry class that required a building to be evacuated. I did much better at USC because I only started a fire in the lab there. A woman dropped something on my shoe which caught on fire,¡± says Shapiro.

With his plans for a career in veterinary medicine gone up in smoke, Shapiro changed his major to business. Upon graduation, Shapiro worked operations, production and sales for his family¡¯s garment business.

He then started work for a tent company as a purchasing agent, later to become assistant to the owner. Says Shapiro, ¡°This was probably just before tents became a major event venue. They were still pretty much a ¡®Mom and Pop¡¯ garage industry.¡±

About three and a half years later, he started Academy Tent & Canvas with his friend and partner Maury Rice. ¡°We started on a shoestring,¡± Shapiro recalls. ¡°Maury¡¯s father-in-law donated an old truck to the cause. It was so old that it didn¡¯t have any paint on it.¡±

Says Shapiro, ¡°One of our first customers was a caterer who was doing a rock star¡¯s wedding. Our truck chugged into the driveway, and just like in a cartoon, it collapsed. Smoke started billowing out, the tires went flat, the crew jumped off the back. The caterer ran up to me and said, ¡®Tom, Tom, promise me everything¡¯s going to be OK.¡¯

¡°We put the tent up and the rock star was so pleased she invited us all to attend the wedding.¡±

Progressing from this humble start-up, the 1984 Olympics created a major ¡°tipping point,¡± at which Shapiro and Academy provided a lot of tenting. Since then, they have done work at three different Olympics, at Super Bowls, and in foreign destinations.

¡°What I am most fond about in our success would be the company reputation, where people have enough confidence in us that they take us with them,¡± says Shapiro.

Regarding the work that produced the growth and success of Academy, and the high esteem with which event professionals regard him, Shapiro says with a smile, ¡°I don¡¯t deserve any credit...because you know what? It¡¯s the people who work with us that deserve the credit. As an owner, I get the credit because I have the title. But the reality is, it¡¯s really those people who make it happen.¡±

First year in the event industry:
The start of time. I remember it clearly. Mel Brooks was there. He was the other guy who started in the tent business. But he got out and went into entertainment.

What I thought I was going to be when I grew up:
I don¡¯t know...successful. I just knew I wanted to be good at whatever I did.

Biggest event success:
I think that the biggest success would be more on a global level. And that (success) would be the reputation that the company has achieved in particular for large, high-profile projects, like the Olympics.

Worst event disaster:
One year we provided a bunch of tents for a Super Bowl project. A squall went through town and destroyed a lot of property and in the process about half a dozen of our tents. We provided replacement tents and actually set up sewing machines in the parking lot to make repairs. And two or three days later everything was back up and fine...we now have structures engineered to withstand 70 mph ¡®squalls.¡¯

Most valuable lesson learned:
I don¡¯t know that I could isolate one particular lesson. I guess they all add up to our clients having confidence that we are going to do what we say we will do. We cannot let people down.

Best piece of advice I ever received:
My father always told me that the most important thing is your reputation, because that is the only thing that you take with you.

October 2003

Jim Steeg
Senior Vice-President
of Special Events
NFL

In August 2002, Event Solutions proudly inducted an inaugural class of 10 industry legends into the Event Industry Hall of Fame. This is the eighth in a series profiling each of the inductees.

After 25 years, Jim Steeg, NFL senior vice president of special events, says, ¡°You only need four things to put on a Super Bowl. Two teams, a box of footballs, keys to the stadium, and a paid power bill.¡±

Steeg is considered the sports world¡¯s special events guru, the visionary who has made the Super Bowl the extravaganza it is today. His secret? Steeg believes he¡¯s the conscience of the fans.

¡°Jim understands what the Super Bowl means¡­how it feels to pay $400 for a ticket, and what kind of show you should get,¡± says Jerry Anderson, a member of Steeg¡¯s Super Bowl team for two decades.

Born in Boston, raised during his teen years in Fort Wayne, Ind., Steeg, the son of an engineering professor at Purdue, grew up a sports fanatic. His favorite memory? At age 9 in 1960, he skipped a day of fifth grade so he could sit in right field at Fenway Park for Ted Williams¡¯ final game.

After receiving a bachelor¡¯s degree in political science from Miami University in 1972, followed by an MBA in finance from Wake Forest in 1975, Steeg was unexcited at the prospect of working for an accounting firm. He wrote to every professional sports team in the country, except those in New York. In July ¡®75, the Miami Dolphins hired him as an accountant. Within four years, Steeg was the team¡¯s business manager.

On Jan. 2, 1979, then-Commissioner Pete Rozelle handed Steeg the newly created position of NFL director of administration. Only 28, Steeg took charge of the league¡¯s events outside of its New York City headquarters, including the Super Bowl, Pro Bowl, AFC and NFC Championships, and NFL Draft.

Over the years, he has added others, including running American Bowl games; managing the Pro Football Hall of Fame reunions; overseeing the NFL 75th Anniversary Celebration; coordinating the NFL¡¯s made-for-TV shows, and handling the NFL Owners¡¯ and other league meetings.

Steeg is responsible for all aspects of the Super Bowl, both inside the stadium and out, and before, during and after the game. Throughout his tenure, Steeg has implemented many Super Bowl-related elements and activities that have become staples throughout professional and Olympic sports: Jumbotron screens; audio TV broadcasts throughout the stadium; individual radios featuring broadcasts at every seat; TV access at all concession stands; outside entertainment plazas and a corporate hospitality village. Also, Steeg directs league-sponsored Super Bowl charitable events, raising millions of dollars for programs in local host communities.

There¡¯s no problem Steeg can¡¯t solve, no crisis he can¡¯t handle, no stone he leaves unturned. ¡°It¡¯s supposed to be fun,¡± he says. ¡°For players and coaches, it¡¯s life or death. But we¡¯re not electing a president, and this isn¡¯t the end of the Earth. It¡¯s a football game. If things don¡¯t go right, we¡¯ll play again next year.¡±.

First Year in the industry:
1975, back when a Dolphins game was considered ¡°an event.¡± First, I brought back the team¡¯s cheerleaders, then I added Flipper, a live dolphin, in a tank in the end zone.

What I thought I was going to be when I grew up:
I figured I¡¯d get into finance or accounting, leading into management in business.

I got into the business because:
I¡¯ve always loved sports. Also, my father challenged me to find a job that would combine my love for sports and my skills in finance and accounting.

Biggest event success:
Super Bowl XXXVI in New Orleans. 9/11 forced the NFL to change the date of the game, and all the plans we¡¯d been making the previous 2 1/2 years. Americans feared flying, attending major events, gathering in crowds. It was imperative for the psyche of the country that Super Bowl XXXVI be safe. It came off without a hitch.

Worst event disaster:
Knock on wood, nothing major. Carrie Rozelle, the wife of Pete Rozelle, once told me: ¡°All sorts of little things might not be what you thought they should be. But only you will notice.¡±

Most valuable lesson learned:
Communication is the key to success in anything you do. The best-laid plans don¡¯t mean anything if you haven¡¯t talked to the
ushers, security guards, halftime performers, etc., ensuring they know their responsibilities and what you¡¯re trying to accomplish.

The best piece of advice I ever received:
Pete Rozelle told me: ¡°Do things with class and style. If you do the right thing, the events will evolve to the point where they¡¯re worth more in the long term.¡±

November 2003

 

 

 

David L. Wolper
Producer

In August 2002, Event Solutions proudly inducted an inaugural class of 10 industry legends into the Event Industry Hall of Fame. This is the ninth in a series profiling each of the inductees.

When you stop everything to watch the Super Bowl halftime show, spectacular Olympics Opening and Closing Ceremonies, or are thrilled by a live event production, you experience the legacy of David L. Wolper. In addition to raising the bar and setting the standard for live event extravaganzas, Wolper¡¯s impressive list of credits includes documentaries, sit-coms, docudramas, and films ranging from Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory to The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, recreating each genre in the process.

At the 1939 World¡¯s Fair in New York, Wolper¡¯s life changed when he witnessed his first television broadcast at the RCA exhibit. TV would shape his future, and he would ultimately shape the future of the medium, raising the world¡¯s expectations of entertainment.
Wolper was born in New York in 1928, roughly four months after television was first demonstrated. While growing up, he earned money selling radishes, delivering flowers, and bussing tables. Even then his flair for show business manifested itself, as he promoted local big bands and held entertainment-connected odd jobs, such as Arthur Murray dance instructor, usher at a Broadway theater, and seating guests at a stylish canteen.

Although Wolper began college at Drake University in Iowa, he transferred to the University of Southern California, which at the time housed the nation¡¯s only film school. Wolper also played baseball, wrote for the university humor magazine and shot photos for the USC newspaper.

He showed his inventive humor by showing up uninvited to the Academy Awards with a friend who was dressed in a gorilla suit. The stunt was part of a publicity campaign in which he also produced several theatrical scenarios to get students to attend a play written by a friend.

In 1949, Wolper decided to leave school to develop his vision for TV. His first entrepreneurial adventure involved buying and reinventing documentaries for the small screen. These were Wolper¡¯s first steps in presenting information as entertainment.

His list of credits is a virtual stroll through history. He brought imagination to history and reality to imagination. Throughout his career, Wolper has implemented new techniques, mixing a variety of media into film to properly convey a story.

This year, USC opened The David Wolper Center in celebration of his 50th anniversary in entertainment. The center contains many of Wolper¡¯s personal and professional archives, including scripts, awards, business records and physical documentation of events that transformed the nation¡¯s psyche.
Throughout his career, Wolper¡¯s vision, energy and innovative spirit have impacted people¡¯s perspective and perception of what it means to be entertained. His lifetime of creativity has rewarded him with more than 90 prestigious awards, including three Oscars and 50 Emmys. As one of the original visionaries in the industry, his legacy is the gift of joy, fascination and wonder.

Career Event Highlights
American Revolution Bicentennial Administration:
Staging live events is a prominent part of Wolper¡¯s body of work. He was appointed by President Gerald Ford to the Council for the American Revolution Bicentennial Administration in January 1975 to help celebrate the United States¡¯ 200th birthday. He was elected chairman by the organization¡¯s 25-member council.

Olympic Organizing Committee:
Wolper was appointed vice chairman of the Olympic Organizing Committee that brought the 1984 Summer Olympics to Los Angeles. He transitioned from that position to producer of the Games¡¯ Opening and Closing Ceremonies.

1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics:
His ambitious, precisely planned and delivered production enthralled the 85,000 spectators as well as a worldwide TV audience. Wolper set a new standard for participation with 84,000 attendees raising their mosaic cards on cue. The 84 baby grand pianos thundering the refrains of Gershwin¡¯s ¡°Rhapsody in Blue,¡± the soaring flight of doves, the startlingly new details, created the biggest show of the century. Later, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awarded Wolper the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Oscar for this amazing production.

1986 Liberty Weekend:
He then produced the 1986 Liberty Weekend to celebrate the unveiling of the renovated Statue of Liberty and its 100th anniversary. Wolper and other top producers and directors created a four-day commemoration that included a parade of 300 ships, a Boston Pops concert, a political summit, a concert in Central Park, a salute to sports and an extravagant closing ceremony at Giants Stadium. The event was viewed by 1.5 billion people worldwide.

 

 
 
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