Monday, February 18, 2008

konagod: starmaker

Or maybe I was just a catalyst. Or maybe I was just an accessory to a catalyst.
I don't want anyone to think from the title of this post that I'm seriously taking credit for anything; this is a philosophical humor piece.

Last night we were watching an incredibly entertaining Motown documentary: Standing in the Shadows of Motown. In fact it was so good I stayed up until almost 11:00 watching it. That's way past my usual sleepy time.

Aside from dishing out some good history of Motown and the players, there were some very lively performances by Bootsy Collins. Meshell Ndegeocello and Joan Osborne got quite a bit of time on the screen as well as Ben Harper.

Near the end of the documentary though was a performance by Chaka Khan and Montell Jordan, who is probably best remembered for his hit, "This is How We Do It," back in 1995 and earned him a MTV Music Award nomination as well as a Grammy nomination in that year.

Back around late 1992 I was moving into a supervisory position at my advertising agency to lead a department which was responsible for tracking calls and product orders from infomercial 800-numbers and other "direct-response" commercials which also utilized the "order now" approach with a toll-free numbers to push goods and services. We were also hiring new staff at the time to help with the workload and one of the people we hired was Montell.

I was also interested in production and since we had a department dedicated to that function, I managed to get my foot in that door for a brief period. One of our clients at the time was Def Comedy Jam and we were doing a production for several commercials to promote videos of some of their rising comedians. That was probably the only pleasantly memorable experience from my brief time in the production department. I got to dabble in a bit of scriptwriting for the spots, a few lines of which may have ended up in the final creative, give or take a word or two.

It was fun because I HAD to watch a lot of video footage and I was a big fan of those very funny (but not workplace safe) folks. I also got to spend a bit of time in the editing studio as the video footage was being assembled for the commercials. I even got to meet Stan Lathan who was the director of the Def Comedy Jam and was overseeing the production for the commercials.

While the video editing was lovely, the voice-over person was not up to par. I was in the edit bay with a colleague from our production department. I'll call her Miss R. She was supervising the actual edit and I was there as a backup and as a second set of eyes.

Stan asked Miss R. if she had any recommendations for a voice-over talent as we were in a time crunch and needed to get this done soon. Miss R. thought for a second and mentioned Montell. She looked at me and asked, "Don't you think he'd be great?"

I agreed. We got him in there to meet Stan and do some quick auditions. The deal was done. He was perfect.

It wasn't very long after that when Montell left our agency to pursue his music dream. I often speculate about whether that coincidental blip in history which introduced him to the director of Def Comedy Jam helped propel him into meeting Russell Simmons, the co-founder of the hip-hop label Def Jam, and ultimately (and quickly) into an extremely successful record deal less than 2 years later.

When Montell left, we didn't have any idea if he would make it or not. It wasn't until he showed up in the Billboard charts that we knew for sure.

Those coincidental introductions and the proverbial forks in the road have always been fascinating to me. We all have them, but not all of us have such a driving motivation to recognize the right move and capitalize on it. And few of us will ever face a crossroad of such startling contrast. Luck and talent do count for something. So does having clarity and focus -- knowing what you want from life.

Just wanted to share that little bit of history. Now, about that Bootsy Collins...

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