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I’d been thinking this week about what — exactly — I do when I encountered Jimmy Kimmel interviewing Billy Crystal. Billy told a couple stories about Jerry Weintraub, one of those Hollywood legends with whom I’ve always been enamored, and I found myself later that night reading a nine-year-old interview with Weintraub in a newspaper. He called himself “a high-priced concierge,” and I think that describes what I do best… better than just about anything. I make solid, meaningful introductions, I fix things, I make things a little better, a little cleaner, a little more enticing, and I do it by relying on fifteen years of experiences in high-end retail and apparel design and production, mixed in with years in hospitality and food and beverage. My training as an actor and a writer factors in nearly constantly, always relying on tools from those trades to improve situations that would’ve been impossible to improve without.
I can’t remember how I first encountered Weintraub’s story, but if you’re unfamiliar, I can recommend three vehicles that will quickly turn you into a fan: his autobiography, When I Stop Talking, You’ll Know I’m Dead: Useful Stories from a Persuasive Man, his book on tape (he reads it and does a great job in doing so. He has one of the most-imitated voices in Hollywood.) and an excellent HBO documentary made about his life, His Way.
This is the guy who single-handedly revived the performing careers of Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra. Not only that, he took them from small venues to arenas. He discovered and made a superstar of John Denver — a man fit for his time if ever there was one. He gave the now Academy Award-winning writer and director Barry Levinson his first shot at writing and directing, and it was on one of the best movies of all time, Diner. Jerry sparked a karate boom in producing The Karate Kid. He experienced great success and greater failures, lived to tell the tale, and went onto produce the Oceans 11 trilogy. Oh, and he did it all while somehow managing to stay married to (and self-admittedly often separated from) his wife of 50 years while living with his girlfriend of 20 years, and they all remained close. Figure that one out! Well… Jerry did. In the spirit of my podcast, Know First, Jerry seemed to know himself from the day his was born, and he spent his life living and figuring out how to do exactly what he wanted by any means necessary. Among his many legendary stories, in the early 1970s, he managed to find $1 million dollars in cash overnight to pay Elvis’ manager, Col. Tom Parker. He tells it to Charlie Rose below.
So, in this era when many have been forced to refocus and invent new versions of ourselves, I encourage everyone to focus on people like Jerry Weintraub, a hard-working, determined, high-priced concierge.