Behind the scenes of entertainment
Having talent at your fingertips is not enough to make it in the hurly-burly world of show business. Every successful entertainer needs an agent who is so on the ball that everything is taken care of, leaving the artist to concentrate on the show. Says impresario Stephen Galleid, managing director of Ave Entertainment (now known as Party Pro).
"Even the top performers depend heavily on their agents," he explains. "Although agents keep to the shadows of the limelight, they can make or break an act because they oil the machinery that keeps the show running smoothly."
This means taking care of venue and hotel bookings, providing musical instruments and electronic equipment (such as microphones and rhythm and echo units), right down to smoothing entertainers' often fragile egos.
Backstage nervesStephen has a compendium of clients from stars such as Mark Banks, Eddie Eckstein, Cyril Green, Mimi Coertze and the Blarney Brothers, to the more exotic, such as magicians and acrobats, and a variety of dancers including can-can & follies. Even a traffic cop who plays a keyboard.
But being an impresario is far from glamorous. It takes 24-hour dedication and the rare ability to keep a cool head when tempers are flaring. "Most of these artists are far more sensitive than people generally realise. They get uptight very quickly and often feel the whole world is against them."
"Backstage, waiting for the curtain to rise, they're a bundle of nerves. Only when they are on stage are they suddenly professional. But if there are any hassles the agent is always to blame."
"For instance, a band will freak out if there aren't enough plug points. And if management hasn't organised a proper stage they'll refuse to play on the dance floor. As the agent you've got to sort out these problems," says Stephen.
Three monthsAnd that's just the tip of the iceberg. To be an agent of any repute, you need impeccable contacts (so vital to the business that Stephen keeps his lists in a fire-proof safe) and a superior organising initiative.
"One of my biggest jobs was to organise a party on a farm near Paarl for a cabinet (who will remain anonymous as Stephen is adamant about client confidentiality).
"I booked the Gerry Bosman orchestra, Dezi Ray, the TV and recording star, a string quartet and singer Marijan Milakovic. To set up the sound system, I had to fly down one of the best sound engineers in the country. That turned out to be some party."
Stephen said that there is demand for musicians on three-month contracts. "We've supplied most of the venues in town. especially restaurants. I operate wherever I can find work for the people on my books. I've handled bookings in Knysna, Swaziland, Uitenhage, Durban, even Hluhluwe."
Stephen believes that Cape Town could be a mecca for entertainment, but that the tourist market is not being properly tapped. "No-one is providing a service for Continental visitors, so I'm concentrating on getting Spanish and Greek dancers as well as Portuguese, German, Israeli and Italian musicians/vocalists."