I once had a career producing media. When I began, I did some work that was for public consumption such as television commercials and print advertising. Later, once I moved to Chicago, almost everything I did was corporate communications.
In addition to film and video, I did a lot of live events. Live corporate events in that era included everything from showing some slides at a board of directors meeting to an arena event for thousands of chanting, stomping sales reps. At the large events we’d often execute Broadway scale musical numbers, complete with orchestra, chorus lines and lyrics written to include the company’s products and people.
Unlike Broadway, where the cast and crew have dozens of performances to work out the kinks before opening night, we’d have, at best, one full dress rehearsal. And, unlike Broadway, if anything went wrong in our performances it often meant instant career death for the unlucky corporate person assigned responsibility for that year’s sales meeting.
To mitigate the risk inherent in a live event, one of the regular features of medium to large corporate shows was an appearance, performance or presentation by a well known celebrity, actor, performer or singer.
The upside of this was that I got the chance to meet and interact with a lot of A and B list celebrities of that time. The downside was that many, actually most, of the A and B list celebrities of that time were, to be kind, not their public persona. That reality, that gap between the popular culture version of the celebrities and the reality of the celebrities who I interacted with in order to execute the shows, was a cold slap in the face to a kid raised on television, magazines and newspapers.
Time after time I was confronted with the ugly side of fame. The narcissism, the megalomania, the egos the size of the arenas were so rampant that I soon gave up any hope of ever meeting any popular singer, musician, actor or celebrity who wasn’t a Class A, King Sized jerk.
I began to dread any show that included a marquee name.
I hit bottom when I had the misfortune of working with one of the most recognizable, most celebrated performers in the world, a hero of millions around the globe, who turned out to be one of the worst of the worst in person.
I was, at that point, beyond hope, terminally cynical about all things celebrity.
And then came Harry Morgan.
Harry Morgan was the second actor to play the colonel on the long-running hit television series M*A*S*H. Like just about everyone else with a pulse and a television, I watched M*A*S*H faithfully and knew Mr. Morgan only as Colonel Sherman Tecumseh Potter, M.D., the affable regular-Army, supposed commander of the crazy crew on the television series.
Due to my celebrity track record, when I met Mr. Morgan, I fully expected him to be just as much of a jerk as almost every other star and minor celebrity I’d worked with prior. Instead, Harry Morgan turned out to be just as much of a gentleman, just as affable and every bit as funny as he was playing the role of Col. Potter.
I honestly can’t remember the client or the details of the tour we did together, but I do remember vividly that Mr. Morgan, who only played a doctor on TV, cured me of the disease of preconceived notions.
I subsequently had the very good fortune of working and touring with celebrities and stars who turned out to be both personable, genuinely good people and a lot of fun to hang out with backstage.
Thanks Harry. May you rest in peace.
Harry Morgan 1915 – 2011