Sunday, March 4, 2012

Bernard Furshpan and NYC's Metropolitan Room!


The only thing you have to give up to get what you want is the idea that you can’t have it.

Happy Sunday!

Sitting here on a Sunday afternoon sipping my coffee and listening to Jonathan Schwartz's radio show on the 40s channel on Sirius XM, the 40s channel, celebrating the Great American Songbook. What could be better? Perhaps being at a LIVE show! Last night, I went to see Pamela Luss' wonderful show at The Metropolitan Room. I wrote about Pamela a few weeks ago.   She'll be back next month. Check out The Metropolitan Room's calendar and check out Pamela. 

I have been going to The Metropolitan Room for the last six years. They are celebrating their 6th anniversary in May.  It's hard to believe it has been six years. 

It seems like it was only yesterday that it was announced that Lennie Watts (current president of MAC :Manhattan Association of Cabarets and Clubs) was opening a new room having launched  the now defunct Encore and Mama Rose. In the 25 years that I have been part of the cabaret community, I have seen a lot of room come and go. We just recently lost the famed Oak Room at The Algonquin Hotel which had a 31 year run. There is also a buzz about a new club called 54 Below. According to Simply-Showbiz.com, 54 Below will be located one floor beneath the old Studio 54 nightclub on West 54th Street. The main floor is now a theater space for Roundabout Theatre Company. While the new club—which will open in June—can’t be called a replacement for the Oak Room, it definitely sounds as though it will be a high-end venture, seemingly in the same league with Michael Feinstein’s club, Feinstein’s at Loews Regency on Park Avenue. Patti Lupone is scheduled to be the opening act. 

I will say that over the years, I have never had a bad experience as a patron of The Metropolitan Room. The same cannot be said, however, for the entertainers that have appeared there. There have been rumblings among the circuit that they have had, in the past, trouble getting paid in a timely manner. The unfortunate thing is that with the paradigm as it is now, most entertainers self produce. 
They have to pay for musicians, arrangements, advertising, promotions, EVERYTHING. 
They then four-wall the room, which essentially means to rent it. 
As entertainers, we are sometimes happy to get paid when we get paid. 
I have yet to meet a musician, however, who is as patient. 
I've even had some musicians who want to be paid before they walk out on stage. 
When you have to dole out that money and then have to wait five or six months to get paid, even longer, that's outrageous!

Enter Bernard Furshpan! Bernie, as he asked me to call him, is part of an exciting team that also includes booking manager and entertainer Tanya Holt, who I also have written about. Lennie left sometime ago to pursue other interests.  A very generous benefactor stepped up to the plate with an investment that paid off all the entertainers up to date. Bernie means business. He aims to reach beyond the usual cabaret audience (friends, family, fellow performers) and build a business. He wants to give the more "prestigious" rooms such as Feinstein's and the Carlysle a run for their money. 
I hope he succeeds. 
Based on my conversations with him, I think he'll succeed! 

 Bernie remembers seeing Peter Pan in the mid 1960s.  He was so taken back with the whole concept of live entertainment and how big and exciting the experience was to him.

He can’t recall the exact theater and location but he knows it was in New York City.

Unfortunately, Bernie really wasn't exposed to the arts growing up. His parents were immigrants and worked very hard to make ends meet.  
They did a great job raising his brother and himself, but the arts were not part of their upbringing. On his own, he learned to draw and play drums.

Bernie was born in Israel and emigrated to the U.S. when he turned 7.  His youth was spent on the streets of Brooklyn and in high school, his extracurricular activities were involved in volunteering at Coney Island Hospital.  He always desired to play drums and his brother bought him his first snare drum and a symbol.  He says he gave his mom headaches every day.  He went to Stony Brook University and majored in sciences as a pre-med student.  He worked for the college newspaper and magazine as an graphic artist and cartoonist.
Bernie's first professional job in the arts was as a drummer when he was in college and he played at local bars around the Stony Brook area.  It ended when a fight broke out at the bar and his drum set was destroyed.  Bernie's first professional job as a producer and promoter of the arts was at Lincoln Center. He produced and promoted a successful Russian concert, immediately followed by an even more successful historic blues concert at Avery Fischer Hall. 
His first professional job as a stand up comedian was at Gotham Comedy Club in 2008. 
 
Your thoughts on Arts in Education (ALL of my blogs focus on this)
Many things we do in life can be considered artful.  The way some people fold their shirts is art to me.  I find that people who are passionate about what they do and do it often are artists in their own right.  When it comes to formal art, as in paintings, music, dance, etc., I feel compelled to say that this expression is more important for the heart and soul of the individual than all the other forms of learning combined.  I feel this way because it’s an exercise in allowing your natural instinct, that is inherent in all of us to find an outlet.  This is the stuff that makes us happy – the exercise of expressing the beauty of nature by way of our bodies as a vehicle of its expression.  The body is a medium of this expression and it moves outward from physical expression, voice, movement, etc.  

The other areas in education is important in terms of knowledge about history of our civilization, culture, communication, business – it’s all good, but not complete with a balanced education that includes studying the human expression of art.

What makes you cry out of the blue when you see or hear it?
Without question, Monet’s “The Water Lily Pond” at the MOMA.

Your thoughts on Carol Channing (All my blogs focus on Carol Channing’s Foundation For The Arts)
I’ve been a fan of Carol Channing since I was very young.  I’ve always loved her genuineness and good feeling I had when I heard her sing or talk.  There’s something very special about her that is very rare and wonderful.  I would hope that she achieves all her goals in her endeavors to support the arts.

I’m campaigning for Carol Channing to receive the 2012 Kennedy Center Honor in 2012.
 If you agree that she should receive this honor, can you say why you think this should happen (See below to see how YOU can help!)
I truly believe that Carol Channing should receive the 2012 Kennedy because of her dedication to the arts.  She’s truly a living legend that is more concerned about other artists’ careers and helping them achieve their goals.

Most recent show at The Metropolitan Room that you were very excited about
Barb Jungr
Barb Jungr’s performance of Bob Dylan songs.  It was very moving. (Editor's note, Barbara returns April 10-28th)
 
Next show coming in that you are very excited about
Lorinda Lisitza.  She’s got the most incredible stage presence and powerful voice.  She knocks me off my feet.

What is your biggest success?  
In the concert production and promotions, I would say it was my historic Blues Concert at Avery Fischer Hall in January of 2004.  We had the likes of Pinetop Perkins, Buddy Guy, John Mayer, Little Milton, James Cotton, George Mogo Buford, Calvin Jones,  Bob Margolin, Jody Williams, Bob Stroger, Robert Lockwood Jr, David Honeyboy Edwards, Eddie Shaw, and more To read more about this event, go to http://www.big-fish-productions.com/legendsofblues/index.html

What was your lowest low and how did you surpass that?
My lowest point was forgetting the punchline of a joke while performing stand up.  I did some crowd work and never completed the joke.  I felt embarrassed after that.

What one change would you like to see in today’s industry?
I’d like to see artists get a bit more respect than they are receiving.  I’ve fixed up our artist dressing room and provided them with amenities most don’t think about.  Their comfort is a big concern for me.

 What do you think ultimately made you accept your current role at The Met Room?
What ultimately made me decide to move forward with The Met Room were conversations with Chris Mazzilli, partner of Gotham Comedy Club and Metropolitan Room.

 Are you happy at the point you are right now in your career?
Marilyn Maye and Bernie Furshpan at The Metropolitan Room
Absolutely happy!  I love the business, the relationships with my staff, artists and patrons.  It’s a people business and it goes beyond that – it’s a business supporting the arts and I love working with talented and professional individuals.
 
Do you feel you have achieved what you set out to do?
I don’t think I’ll ever be satisfied with my achievements.  I continuously challenge myself to reach higher goals and raise the bar on all areas of my life and business.  However, I’m always happy with the direction things are moving, even if it gets uncomfortable at times.

What do you do to remain positive when life's hiccups get you down?
I don’t usually get down on results I’m not seeking.  I do see them as lessons and I learn what I don’t want to do.  I’m always looking to fix problems so they don’t necessarily scare me.  If I don’t have problems to fix, I’m out of a job.

How on earth do you reach cabaret goers now that newspapers are obsolete and there are so many channels on TV you can’t pick the right ones to advertise on and with the web being so hit and miss. 
I believe that the best way to attract business with cabaret goers is the old fashioned “Word of Mouth.”  If we can give our patrons more than they expect to get for what they paid for – to enhance their experience and make it exciting, magical and memorable, then they’ll not only come back, but bring others to the club.

A genie pops out of the lamp, he grants you three wishes. What are those wishes?
1.    Meet Carol Channing
2.    Make The Metropolitan Room an International Destination
3.    Provide all my friends the resources to succeed in their careers

If you could travel anywhere in the world and spend some time there, where would you choose, and what would you do?
with Joanne Portelli
Open a Metropolitan Room in Asia and bring all my Cabaret friends to the venue to perform and entertain and quench their thirst for American culture and music.
 
What would you ask God if you could right now?
To grant me, my family and friends long healthy lives and great relationships.

What is the last stage show you saw.  Local or professional.  
I see the Metropolitan Room stage every day.  I’ve been to other venues in NYC recently, however, I love the Met Room and working on improving it constantly – giving it the love it deserves.

What was the turning point in your career?
I believe establishing solid, trusting relationships in the business helps get a footing in it and it launched my career to the next level.  It’s all about relationships and I believe one has to build trust, have integrity and nurture relationships.

When do you know it’s time for a Met show?
Every day I know it’s time.

I agree, Bernie! I'm rooting for you!!


NO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT INTENDED.  FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY!





Please do what YOU can to be more aware that words and actions DO HURT...but they can also heal and help!

Tomorrow's blog will be... Networking In The Cabaret Community! (Suggested by Bernie Furshpan)





Thank you, to all the mentioned in this blog!

  Here's to an INCREDIBLE tomorrow for ALL...with NO challenges!

Portions of The Persian Room Presents benefits ChldHelp, a cause dear to Carol Lawrence's heart. Please join us at Barnes and Noble on Wednesday Evening, March 7th, 2012 7PM 82nd and Broadway to celebrate this amazing book. Details here!

Please contribute to the DR. CAROL CHANNING  and HARRY KULLIJIAN FOUNDATION FOR THE ARTS






 
TILL TOMORROW...HERE'S TO AN ARTS FILLED DAY
Richard Skipper, Richard@RichardSkipper.com
                                
This Blog is dedicated to The Metropolitan Room and its continuing success and the gifts it gives to audiences and artists alike!
 


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