Backstage with Ron Onesti: M&Ms USED to be my favorite candy!
It’s been a whirlwind!!! We have had soooo many shows recently, even more than normal! Gladys Knight, Christopher Cross, Paul Anka, Tony Danza, Chazz Palminteri, Tony Orlando and John Waite were among the twenty shows we had over the past couple of weeks! And it is always this way! Live music is back…and people are loving it!
Sometimes it’s even too much for me to handle! I go from The Arcada Theatre to The Des Plaines Theatre and back, practically daily. I try very hard to be there for almost every show, but it can be quite difficult!
For example, during the day I usually have staff meetings and communications with the various acts’ agents and managers. I book all of our shows and that is a science in and of itself. Coordinating our calendars and negotiating the deals takes a lot out of you! But that’s just part of the excitement of the biz!
On show days I greet the entertainers and welcome them to our venue. I usually have already worked with them over the past 35+ years in the business so catching up with them is fun. We recently had Scott Stapp of CREED, and he brought his wife and three of their young children with them. They ate with us upstairs in Club Arcada Speakeasy and had a great time with a walk-around magician we had up there. His six-year old’s face lit up like crazy!
And what was cool was that Scott brought his young son on stage during the show to join him in a song. The kid rocked it out!
Shaun Cassidy brought his teenaged surfer-son with him to help sell his merchandise. A few acts have done that. When Ted Nugent comes to town, he has a bunch of family visit as he went to Fremd and St. Viator, two high schools in the Chicago area.
Of course when the Garage-Rock legends come to the theatre, their Chicago families come in droves! Wives, husbands, sons, daughters, aunts, uncles, grandparents…even pets come to see their beloved Buckinghams, Ides of March, Cryan’ Shames and New Colony 6 bands of the 1960s.
The family element really adds to the backstage experience. These icons become “real” as they reunite with loved ones whom they hadn’t seen for a long time. I get to be a fly on the wall as the “remember whens” start happening. It’s pretty cool.
But still, it also adds a bit of craziness to an equation that is already a bit complicated. Think of all the details it takes to put on an event you would have at home-a birthday party, a holiday event or a backyard wedding. It’s a lot, right?
On our end, we have entertainer option research, offer process, contract negotiation and financial arrangements that need to be made. Then Ticketing, marketing and promotion is next. Advance planning of sound, lights, stage requirements, instruments and backstage meals is quite the process and let us not forget hotels, ground transportation, security and the green “M&Ms”!
I am far from complaining. To be able to work in this environment is a gift from God. Because at the end of the evening, we have brought so much joy to the audience, and a feeling of comfort and accomplishment for the entertainers. They feel respected and are so well taken care of. And that is so very important because I cannot tell you how many times it was our reputation of taking care of the acts as if they were coming to my house that has helped us get the show. Venues all compete for these bands and we are “awarded’ the shows. So with all things like the money and production elements being equal, how they are treated at the venue is more often than not the deciding factor on which venue in a market they will play.
So every time I see one of those “cute” M&M commercials with them walking and talking, I think about those challenging contract riders with the lists of strange and expensive requests on them. Those guys represent all that is difficult in the backstage portion of the show. But like them, we smile all the way. But if I had just one chance to slug it out with them, I think it would be the answer to all my frustrations!