294 – October 21
“The man who leaves nothing to chance will do few things badly, but he will do very few things.”—George Savile Halifax
I was a drama major about to graduate from college when a classmate called. An agent from Hollywood coming to see him in a play and he hoped I would sit next to the agent and say good things. I agreed; I was delighted to help my friend and got to meet an agent myself in the bargain.
Frank Levy was a new agent at Creative Management Associates (now ICM), one of the top two agencies in the world. We hit it off right away, discussing plays, films, and performances—and my friend, Joe, naturally. It was an enjoyable evening, although it didn’t pan out in a deal for my friend.
A week later, I got a call from Frank. His secretary had just quit and he offered me the job. I was so astonished, I almost “Yeah, butted” him out of it: “But I don’t take shorthand.”
“That’s okay,” he said, “I don’t dictate much.”
“And I don’t type really well,” I admitted, wanting to be honest.
“That’s okay, too,” he answered, “What I really need is someone who can read scripts and write opinions on them. You can do that.”
I took a big gulp of air and plunged in. “All right. I’ll do it!” Breathlessly, I hung up the phone, amazed that I hadn’t even finished school and had my first job in Hollywood—at a top agency, too!
Reality set in my first day on the job, when I was faced with an electric typewriter. I looked all over it but could not locate the “on” switch. I went looking for help and found Sandy, another secretary. “How do you turn this on?” I asked, pointing to the typewriter. She flipped the switch underneath the keyboard.
“Um, what secretarial school did you go to?” she asked hesitantly.
“Oh, Sandy, I never went to secretarial school and I don’t know how I’m going to keep this job! Will you please help me?” I threw myself on her mercy, she laughed and said of course she would help, and we became fast friends from that moment on.
Soon, I was working for both Frank and Joe Funicello, Annette’s brother. Stars came and went from the offices daily, and I met many of them. But I wanted to be one of them, not their agent’s secretary. Eventually, Frank helped me get my first union acting job (Minnie Fay in “Hello, Dolly!” with Martha Rae) and I left.
Years later, when I was looking for a literary agent, a friend put me in touch with Jim Jermanok, who had once been a top executive at ICM. When I called him, I said I used to work at ICM, too. “What did you do?” he asked. I told him and he laughed, saying, “I know Joe Funicello!” Synergy established, he referred me to Lisa Hagan, who became one of my best friends and agent.
The ICM lessons are:
1) When someone offers you a job, don’t try to talk them out of it.
2) When you don’t know how to do the job, ask someone who does and follow instructions.
3) Gulp and go!
“All my relationships are valuable in expected and unexpected ways!”