It seemed I'd only been doing record promotion for a few minutes when I started in Houston and one day I got a Heads Up call, "VIKKI CARR, is coming in two weeks to play the Shamrock Hotel, do what it takes to keep her happy." The Shamrock was a Texas legend, built by Glenn McCarthy, the wildcatter played by James Dean in the movie GIANT.
Glenn did everything big, including one of the largest swimming pools in the world for the One Percent to cool off in the Houston heat. I made an appointment to coordinate with the Hotel, and when I arrived Glenn's secretary said, "Go on in, Glenn wants to talk to you." I was terrified and when she opened the huge double doors his "office" was big and dark, he kept the drapes closed during the day.
Suddenly the great man swept in from a side door; mustached, tanned, beautiful tailoring and his hand out. He said, "Hi I'm Glenn," and I said, "Pleased to meet you Mr. McCarthy, and he said, "Glenn, boy!" He asked me if I wanted a drink and I declined, it was 10:00 in the morning and he had a tumbler of whiskey in his other hand. Glenn loved Vikki because she drew big crowds that spent big money. He told me that he'd pick up the cost of a meeting room for a reception and cater it, "You get the bar." Then he said opening night he'd comp 30 tickets for radio and TV, but, "You get the bar."
I was literally shaking when I came out of the office and his secretary said, "Oh honey, his bark is worth than his bite, he's a teddy bear." I reported to Hollywood and they didn't seem too concerned with what I figured would be the Mother of all "Bar Bills." I got instructions to pick her up and take her to a little Boutique Hotel she liked in a couple of days, "Oh and she needs a piano in her room."
The next day I met with the Hotel Manager and he told me that she had a Suite on the Sixth Floor reserved. So then I replied, "Good, she needs a piano," and he said, "No way, it won't fit in the elevator," and I thought to myself, "There goes my promotional career."
So I call back to the Coast and tell them she needs a piano, but we can't get one on the elevator. "Sundeen this is your gig, get a Crane." Talk about learning on the job where do I find a Crane? I go to the Yellow Pages (remember those?) and called a company that rented Cranes.
The Crane guy said 6th floor shouldn't be a problem, but the sidewalk below would have to be roped off in case of a "drop;" I could feel my heart beating, and "By the Way, the Insurance for the Drop Insurance was a couple of hundred dollars more." The next morning around 10:00 I'm in the street in front of the Hotel watching a Spinet Piano slowly crawl up the side of the building while I'm sweating in the humidity.
The next morning I pick up the star named Vikki Carr, ( Florencia Bisenta de Casillas-Martinez Cardona) who's dad was a brick layer in El Paso; when she found out I'd been on KELP radio there, she got all excited and started telling me stories about her childhood...by the time we got to the Hotel in my company Chevelle, we were real buddies.
So it's opening night, I've got on my best plaid sport coat and shined shoes, and start greeting my guests at the reception, most of whom I'd never met. Vikki came in briefly in a designer gown, kissed my cheek, worked the room and left to prepare for the show. I passed out the tickets which turned out to also be good for a Steak Dinner, and ushered the happy crowd into the Ballroom, which was packed. Someone patted me on the shoulder, and when I turned around it was Glenn McCarthy with a huge Cuban cigar in his mouth who looked at me and said, "Good job son."
I never saw him again. Vikki was greeted like the Queen, sang her hits got great applause and did two encores, I got the Bar Bill, it was thousands of dollars...turned out folks liked good champagne when it is free. I sent the bill in to accounting and awaited the inevitable screaming it would bring, but never heard a word...it was my first insight into my new job, if you have the artist money is no object. Then one day I got a note at work on beautiful, expensive stationery, it read, "Thank you Don, my friend from El Paso for everything you did. Love Vikki."
Here she is singing "IT MUST BE HIM," which was a hit at the time. Her hair didn't look like this at the airport. @therealdonrocks
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