Happy New Year and Happy Birthday, Grandpa Doc!
Like most people, I take the first day of January to make resolutions to live better in the new year. I look ahead and plan for great success in every area of my life—personal, professional, social, spiritual, mental, and physical. I do something similar every January 2nd, but rather than thinking ahead, I reflect on the past with gratitude. See, January 2nd is my grandfather’s birthday, and it was he who got me my first job in Hollywood.
No, my grandfather is not a Spielberg, Scorsese or Clooney. He wasn’t born in L.A. and he didn’t work in entertainment. He lived in the Coachella Valley (before it was cool) and everyone knew Dr. Parkinson. They usually called him by a nickname like “Dr. Parky,” “Parky” or “Grandpa Doc.” In his later years, he opened a free clinic in Indio and worked as the prison doctor where he earned another nickname: “Jailhouse Doc.” I think he loved that role best, not only because he was helping people, but because he got a front row seat to some interesting storytelling. My grandfather was curious about what made people tick and he made a habit of looking for ways to help; his intention was always to find what he could give people, not to discover what he could get from them. Making lifelong friends was his specialty.
One of these lifelong friends was his barber, Victor Honig. Victor used to cut hair at the Hollywood studios before he retired to the desert. He even tamed the coif of Ronald Reagan before the actor left California for the Oval Office. As the story goes, when Victor passed away, Grandpa Doc contacted Victor’s nephew Richard Rosenberg, who lived in L.A., and offered to help with the funeral arrangements. This was the beginning of another lifelong friendship.
When I graduated from college, I moved to L.A. I didn’t have a job or a real plan and Grandpa Doc arranged for me to call Richard’s longtime assistant, Diana, and set up a meeting to get information about Hollywood. Richard worked in music at the legendary talent agency, William Morris (now called WME.) I was unfamiliar with William Morris. I didn’t know what a talent agent did and I had no idea how important Mr. Rosenberg was. I quickly learned that my grandfather introduced me to a music industry titan. He was an agent, he ran the entire music dept and he was even on the board! Talk about a VVIP! I’m glad I didn’t know any of this before I walked in, because I probably would have been really intimidated.
We spoke for about 20 minutes in his Beverly Hills office. Mr. Rosenberg asked me what I wanted to do for a career and I told him that I wanted to do voice over work.
“Well, has anyone besides your mother told you that you have talent?” he asked.
I thought about it.
“Hmm, not really.”
“Okay. Why don’t you work here. If you hate it in three months, quit. By that time, you should have made enough connections and you’ll figure it out from there.”
He sent my resume to Human Resources. I had an official interview and, a few weeks later, my 23-year-old self got hired to work as a temp at one of the most iconic talent agencies in the business!
I built up my network over the years and used my social and professional capital to pay forward what Grandpa Doc and Mr. Rosenberg did for me so many years ago. I helped my cousin get a job at The Hollywood Reporter. I helped my brother with his first job as a production assistant on a reality show. I used it when I was a talent agent to get jobs for my clients. I still use it everyday as I help 20-somethings around the country get hired in Hollywood. Creating a solid network is the foundation to success in any field, especially entertainment. It’s just like they say, “it’s not what you know, but who you know.”
I’d like to invite you to make a resolution for 2018 to build up your professional network. Start by asking your mom, dad, grandparents, aunts, uncles, or siblings if they know anyone working in the area of entertainment where you have interest. You might be surprised by who they know. How could I have ever known that my small-town doctor grandfather knew a Hollywood heavyweight?
So today, simply say, “Mom, I want to work in entertainment. Can you introduce me to someone I can talk to about what they do and how they got started?”
Shoot me an email and let me know how it goes. I’d love to hear from you.
Happy 2018 and Happy Birthday, Grandpa Doc!