You never know where your next big break is coming from!

Saturday, September 11, 2010 7:14
Posted in category Success Tips

Early in the career of TV host Joan Lunden, Barbara Walters told her, “Take every crumb they throw you and handle them magnificently.” You never know which magnificent crumb is going to be your big break.

Burt Reynolds had made ten films when director John Boorman cast him in the film DELIVERANCE. Burt asked Boorman, “Which of my films impressed you so you gave me this terrific part?”

“None of them,” said Boorman. “I saw you guest-host the TONIGHT SHOW. You were fearless controlling the five guests. The guy in DELIVERANCE has to control three people in a stressful situation.” Which leads us to the next point:

At that time, Johnny Carson was the king of late-night television. Burt developed a character for the show — a super-cocky, wisecracking, devil-may-care womanizer — and Johnny absolutely loved him. Burt’s TV persona was not the kind of guy you would want to live with, but it made great television.

Their routines would go something like this. Johnny would ask, “What are you going to do after the show?” and Burt would say, “Oh, walk up and down Broadway and try to get recognized.” Then he’d wink at the camera as if to say, “I’m having a good time, and being rich and famous ain’t bad either.”

All guests had strict instructions not to talk to Johnny during commercials, so Burt was chatting with Ed McMahon when Johnny suddenly leaned over and asked, “How would you like to guest-host while I’m on vacation?” No actor had ever been invited to guest-host before, only comedians.

When Burt first hosted the TONIGHT SHOW, he had the staff book his ex-wife Judy Carne. Everyone was astonished, even Judy. They hadn’t spoken in six years and still had unresolved marital issues and a lot of animosity.

However, Burt Reynolds knew what my pal, copy-writing genius David Garfinkel, is always telling me: “People love conflict. They love to see people fighting who, deep down, share affection and attraction.” (Alan Weiss, PhD and I make use of this principle in our “Odd Couple” marketing seminars, describing them as “contentious, conflicting, controversial — see them agree and disagree on subjects that mean the most to you.”)

So Judy Carne came on the show, sat down and said, “Hmm, you look good. ” Burt said, “I hate to tell you, but so do you.” She asked, “What have you been doing?”

“Oh, hanging around street corners trying to sell Burt-and-Judy towels,” he quipped. “They are tough to get rid of.” She admitted that she and her current husband were having problems. Burt said, “Well, I’ve grown up since we were married.” The audience clearly was hoping they’d kiss and make up and get back together. Superb theater.

Have you ever felt that a particular job was beneath you or too trivial to merit your best effort? You never know which of the many things you do is going to lead to your big break. That means you have to do everything well.

- Patricia Fripp

Patricia Fripp is an executive speech coach, sales presentation skills trainer, and award-winning keynote speaker. Improve your public speaking and presentation skills with Patricia Fripp’s CDs, DVDs, books, and downloads. Check out Fripp’s The Executive Speech Coach blog and learn more about public speaking.

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