In 1967, I was fairly recently married and still giving show business a try. I had come off the 1964-65 success of the NBC-TV network children’s show, “The First Look” where I was an on-camera principal, one of four, and realized just how hard it was to get my next gig. In Variety I saw a one-day open audition call for backup performers on The Kraft Music Hall, a TV musical variety show of the day. They wanted three “girls” and three “boys” who could sing, dance and play portable musical instruments, as they intended to take the cast on the road. I figured what the heck and put the audition on my calendar.
The audition day rolled around and what a day it turned out to be. I have never in my life seen heavier rain. The weather gods were dumping gargantuan buckets of water from the heavens and then turning on 60-mile-an-hour wind machines. Could I even get out the door and down the block to the subway station with my guitar and umbrella? Oh well, what else did I have to do that day, I asked myself as I girded my loins in a slicker, wrapped my guitar case in a plastic tablecloth and set out.
I blew into the rehearsal studio in the West 40’s at 10:00 A.M., soaked through, hair in strings but my guitar was safe. Small wonder, there weren’t that many Broadway Babies who had braved the elements to audition; it was a sparse crowd of hopefuls that morning. I must tell you in all honesty that as talent goes, I was definitely a “middle of the pack”. I could carry a tune but didn’t have much of a voice, with a mere one octave range. As a dancer – well, I could move to the music and keep the beat, but I was ejected from ballet school as a little kid for lack of promise. My guitar playing was pretty good. I gave it my best shot, handed over my 8” x 10” head shot with contact info on the back, then packed up and went home.
Miracle of miracles, I got called the next day – I was IN! We started rehearsals in a week and taped the first show the week after. I was in three episodes, one starring Connie Stevens, one with Michelle Lee, and the third with Dennis O’Connor, the dancer. Only really old people will remember these show-biz luminaries, but they were larger than life to me. Peter Gennaro, a famous Broadway choreographer at the time, oversaw the dance troupe. I sat and watched everyone else rehearse when our little group was taking a break. I was totally dazzled.
Then it turned out that they were really planning on taking all of us on the road, for months at a time, and I had recently discovered I was pregnant, so I gracefully bowed out Would I ever had gotten a gig on the Kraft Music Hall if auditions had been held on a sunny day? Never.
I was an SVP for an international human resources consulting firm for 21 years. When I joined The Ayers Group/Career Partners International in 1991, it was as a Career Management Consultant, working with the executives “in transition” – those who had lost their jobs due to mergers, acquisitions, management changes, you name it. This niche industry was known as Outplacement. I was gratified by what I did and was, immodestly, very good at it. When I joined the company, it was privately held, by Bill Ayers. In 2006, he decided to sell – as all the other outplacement firms had – to a global staffing company, in our case, to Kelly Services. Kelly immediately wanted to monetize its acquisition, which meant they pressed anyone into service as a salesperson who was remotely capable of selling. I had been doing both counseling and sales since I joined, so I was a prime target. Now, I had monthly sales goals and a lot of pressure to “produce numbers” which was not so much fun. I was constantly scrambling around for new business contacts.
An employment law attorney of my acquaintance told me about one of his clients who was looking for a new outplacement firm and wanted to interview prospective vendors. I was thrilled. The company was Taconic Farms, a biotech that raised genetically customized rats and mice to sell to research laboratories. Its headquarters were in Hudson, New York. What did I know about the rats and mice business? Less than nothing. BUT – my partner Walter and I week-ended at his home in the Berkshires, and Hudson was a one-hour straight shot west on Route 23. I made the appointment with David Lester, head of HR for the company, assembled my PowerPoint materials, and drove over one Friday. I had actually hoped to see a lot of rodents, but this location turned out to be just the corporate offices.
The meeting went swimmingly. I never got nervous because it was such a strange industry in such an out-of-the-way location that the whole experience was just a romp. The company was about to go through a reorganization and consolidate locations, hence the need for outplacement support. I drove back to see David at the end of the month, we had lunch, and he gave me an initial piece of business. David then revealed to me what the “clincher” was and why he picked The Ayers Group as his new vendor. He had spoken with our competitors, all of whom had head corporate offices in NYC, as we did. Not one of them had a sales rep who would drive up to Hudson NY to present. They just sent their materials, their price sheets and referred David to their very sophisticated websites. I guess they figured that Hudson was too remote, it was too small an account, and it wasn’t worth the effort to present in person.
Taconic Farms – or as my colleagues back at the office referred to it as “the rats and mice people” – remained a client of The Ayers Group/Kelly Services and may indeed still use my former employer as a vendor. They gave me a steady stream of business until I retired at the end of 2013 and moved full-time to the Berkshires.