New York Times Bestselling Author Tawni O’Dell Thanks Oprah Winfrey For Changing Her Life
As Oprah Winfrey announced the centennial selection of the Oprah Winfrey Book Club on CBS Mornings Tuesday, Tawni O’Dell, the critically acclaimed New York Times bestselling author of six novels, took to social media to publicly thank Winfrey for selecting her novel Back Roads as an official Oprah Winfrey Book Club selection (#32) back in March of 2001 – describing how the selection changed her life for the better. O’Dell also fondly details the call she received from Winfrey, which quickly turned playful as O’Dell believed she was being pranked. You can check out the heartfelt thank you video here.
“Being part of Oprah’s Book Club was life changing for me not only because she sent my first novel,Back Roads, skyrocketing to the top of the bestseller list, but because she surprised me on her show by reuniting me with my ninth grade English teacher who was the first person to tell me I should be a writer. I will never forget the thoughtfulness behind that moment. Thank you, Oprah, for also affirming for me that I should be a writer and for encouraging the world to be readers!” InBack Roads,Harley Altmyer should be in college drinking beer and chasing girls. He should be freed from his stifling coal town with its lack of jobs and no sense of humor. Instead, he’s marooned in the Pennsylvania backwoods caring for his three younger sisters after the shooting death of his physically abusive father and the arrest of his mother. Life is further complicated when he develops an obsession with the sexy, melancholic mother of two down the road. When she stuns him by responding to his advances, family secrets and unspoken truths threaten to consume him. In the face of each staggering revelation, Harley does the best he can to hold it all together. Violent and disturbing yet touching and darkly funny, Harley’s story is ultimately a search for his own self-worth as he slowly comes to realize that survival is a talent. Back Roads was released as a film in 2018 and featured at the Tribeca Film Festival with a screenplay adapted by Ms. O’Dell. Her first play, When It Happens to You, received rave reviews during its off-Broadway run in 2019. Her play Pay The Writer is scheduled to begin rehearsals at the prestigious Riverside Studios in Hammersmith London. Rehearsals begin Aug 1st with an opening night of August 28th. She wrote the audio drama Closing the Distance, an enormously popular podcast of pandemic-themed monologues performed in real-time by legendary stars including Kathleen Turner, Jason Alexander, Tony Danza, and Kelli O’Hara. The production is set to open on June 19th in New York as a stage iteration entitled Windows. Tawni is the mother of two – her son is a recent PhD grad from Berkley, and her daughter is an established chef in New York. Ms. O’Dell is a native of Pennsylvania, and a graduate of Northwestern University.
Inside The PR Brain
For PR-guru David Salidor, late-February proved to be as hectic a week in his 40+-year career as ever. With client Micky Dolenz in tow; Monday night was The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon; Tuesday held four different interviews at SiriusXM; later that night was the premiere for actor Willem Dafoe’s new movie Inside; and, Wednesday held an early spot back at NBC for NY LIVE with host Sara Gore.
For the music industry veteran, it was the latest chapter in a career that was sealed back in 1967 at Long Island’s Lido Beach Club when he saw a new group, The Who: Says Salidor, “My father who worked for Decca Records asked if I wanted to accompany him and go see a new group the company had just signed. Believe it or not, it was The Who, playing around the club’s swimming pool. It was unlike anything I had ever seen; Keith Moon with day-glow drumsticks and Townshend literally destroying his guitar at the end of the set. For me, that was it, this business was for me.”
Salidor also worked for the legendary My Father’s Place club in Roslyn, New York, that launched everyone from Bruce Spingsteen, to Todd Rundgren and Hall & Oates. “If The Who whet my appetite, My Father’s Place solidified my journey,” Salidor adds.
His first job out of college (where he was music director the college-station) was for the much-missed London Records. “All of a sudden, I was working with the Rolling Stones and Moody Blues, Al Green and Gilbert O’Sullivan. I was the new kid in town, but learned about everything all at once. I was doing ad layouts, writing press releases and taking the artists to radio stations. It was a trial by fire for sure, but I loved it,” adds Salidor.
He went onto to work for other labels like Atlantic and the PR-firm the Howard Bloom Organization, which at the time was the hottest pr-firm in the country, with clients including Billy Joel; Prince; Genesis. Genesis stands out for him. “It was right when Peter Gabriel left the band and there was a tour which I went on. Imagine every night not only seeing a terrific show, but also a dazzling visual show. No question, they were the tops at that point,” he says.
He also formed a relationship with Tom Silverman – then running a very influential tip-sheet called Dance Music Report. He and Silverman, who was also his first and only partner for a spell, went onto create the New Music Seminar, which became a focal point for all the new labels and artists to network. Adds Salidor, “That first event was held at SIR Studios in NY and everyone who was anyone attended. It’s funny now to recall that we started it because we couldn’t get properly accredited for the Billboard Music Forum, which was then the featured industry event in the business; but really neglected the up-and-coming acts and labels.”
A two-year stint with indie ZE Records was also a fascinating run. “This was during the burgeoning new-wave/no-wave movement and I just loved it. Kid Creole & The Coconuts; Cristina; Material; Suicide ; james White and the Blacks and it introduced me to the The Mudd Club, which became an instant favorite.”
A life-long association with August Darnell and his Kid Creole & The Coconuts began as well. “August is without a doubt one of the most creative artists I’ve ever worked with, Totally unique.”
He decided to start his own firm in 1984. He adds, “I learned very quickly that working for someone else is a double-edge sword. If a good campaign happens, the head of the firm gets the credit; if the campaign doesn’t work, you get called on the carpet.”
His first success via his dis Company was with Profile Record’s Run-DMC. “Profile was an amazing label back then. Cory Robins was one of the premiere music guys and had a prescient nuance. Together we got Run-DMC on the cover of Rolling Stone and made them a major marquee attraction. They started the whole urban, hip-hop era. I know it was a long time ago, but they were the first along with Kurtis Blow. No question.”
The next big project to come his way was with a 15-year-old from Merrick, Long Island, named Debbie Gibson. “This was something I had never encountered before; a performer who wrote her own music; produced it and had just an engaging personality. Needless to say, she was a smash. Tours, videos, hit singles followed. Totally engaging and creative. I remember being in Bremen, Germany, when I sat with her at a piano and she played me her entire second album … that hadn’t even been recorded or released yet. Totally amazing talent,” adds Salidor.
Also, a life-long association with celebrity-scribe Mark Bego began. Called the “prince of pop bios” by Publisher’s Weekly. 62-books later, their relationship continues to this day. Bego will be releasing a bio on Joe Cocker later this year via Yorkshire Publishing – also a client.
Bego would go on to pen several books on Salidor’s clients; including Debbie Gibson and Madonna. Also, Bego wrote the authorized bio on Micky Dolenz (I’m A Believer) in 1993 and Salidor set up a launch party at NYC Hard Rock Cafe. That was the first time Salidor met Dolenz,which foreshadowed a Dolenz/Salidor PR-connection down the road.
He was also involved with Madonna in her early stages. “Madonna was always a star. You could just feel it. Repping her then boyfriend and producer John Benitez was key. She and I would constantly discuss pr and together we accomplished a lot. Signing her to Seymour Stein’s Sire was a major move for her.”
Salidor also recalls repping a number of prominent DJs turned producers as well, including Jim Burgess; Arthur Baker; Shep Pettibone and Mark Berry. Remembering, “It was an interesting time; people today forget the amazing contributions they made to music. Pettibone’s production and writing of ‘Vogue’ is still a gem to this day.”
Amid so much success, Salidor also recalls the low-points of a career. “When a client leaves after so much success, there’s certainly a mourning period, but it’s also part of the business. Loyalty is a word that gets thrown around a lot, but is not as evident as one would assume in this business. I just read where a major music personality personally delivered tour bonuses to his road crew. In all my years, I’ve never heard of something like that happening … never. Loyalty and professionalism are rare, rare traits.”
Gibson and Profile would eventually leave his purview; although he worked for Gibson on many of her other endeavors.
In 2004 Salidor met Micky Dolenz and they began working together. “No shade to former clients, but Micky is the most professional client we’ve ever had. Certainly, growing up in the family business, as I had, had everything to do with it. Last year Dolenz did a sit-down with CBS Morning’s Anthony Mason which was sensational. Mason, a fan, did a no-holds barred interviews that was universally embraced by not only Dolenz’s huge fanbase, but by other PR-persons as well, which is always an interesting development – having other experts compliment you!” Salidor recalls.
“When you set a campaign up, three things can happen. #1, everything goes well and it’s a smash. #2: It doesn’t go well, and, #3. It happens, but there’s no feedback. The reality is that sometimes, even bad feedback is good. It’s a funny business, but your reputation, contacts and experience is key.”
Regrets … he’s had a few: “There was a jazz/rock/fusion band that made some terrific records, on SONY of all places and though they had a #1 jazz album, they just did not get the respect that they should have had. I love jazz and watching them perform live was just great. The powers-that-be there had their own ideas, which weren’t at all realistic.”
And, “When Debbie Gibson was a hit, every parent that had a child who they thought could sing called us. 99% of them didn’t have it. Talent, success, know-how … it’s something that I’ve always been able to recognize. We’ve worked with several young female-singers, but they just didn’t have the right people in place. One from New Jersey had her father paying for everything, but doing exactly what he wanted and he just didn’t have any idea about the business. He installed solar heating panels!”
Continues Salidor, “Management is key and finding the right one is often not easy; there are a lot of people who profess to be a manger and they’re clearly not. Organizing a campaign is a lot of meticulous work; knowing what the client is capable of is key too. Being a PR-person is akin in some ways to being a closet-psychiatrist – you’ve got to know your limitations. That NYC-week with Micky Dolenz was prodigious because I knew exactly what would work and I knew how well he’d perform.”
Salidor is also currently repping involved writer Terry Jastrow (Anne Archer’s husband); Donnie Kehr’s Rockers on Broadway and writer C.W. Hanes.
What does Salidor see in his future. “Certainly, more of the same. Identifying the talent and trying to develop it to the point of releasing it in the most effective way. Many of my peers say the music business has changed and not for the better. I disagree as there are more opportunities for music and musical artists than ever before. bring it on!
Samantha Bessudo Drucker Interviews Kevin Scott Allen
Kevin Scott Allen played a Jem’Hadarsoldier in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine seventh season episode “What You Leave Behind“.
In theatre at the Globe Theatre on Broadway, Los Angeles, Allen played Buckingham in Henry VI, Part 2 and Clifford in Henry VI, Part 3.
Allen’s first on-screen appearances were in the 1970s, with guest appearances in Bearcats!” and The Waltons. He guest-starred in St. Elsewhere (with David Birney) and Ed Begley, Jr.), Otherworld, What a Country and Dragnet.
Allen had a recurring role as Ed in the series Homefront and also guest-starred in Courthouse. He guest-starred in two episodes of J.J. Abrams’ series Alias, as well as Joan of Arcadia (with Michael Welch) and 24 (with Gregory Itzin and Jude Ciccolella).
In 2006, he starred in the movies The Machiavelli Hangman, Abe & Bruno, The Chase, and Le Petomane: Parti Avec Le Vent.
Samantha Bessudo Drucker had a chance to interview with this celebrated actor for five decades. Kevin is also a sought after coach and author. Samantha had the pleasure of speaking with Scott about his new book “Murder Can Be Fatal” and what led him to write a mystery novel.
The Disney Revolt: The Great Labor War of Animation’s Golden Age
In the summer of 1941, Walt Disney’s top animator led hundreds of Disney artists out on strike, nearly breaking the studio. This is the true story of those two creative geniuses, plus a corrupt advisor and a mafia gangster, who collided to cause the greatest battle in Hollywood history.
An essential piece of Disney history has been unreported for eighty years.
Soon after the birth of Mickey Mouse, one animator raised the Disney Studio far beyond Walt’s expectations. That animator also led a union war that almost destroyed it. Art Babbitt animated for the Disney studio throughout the 1930s and through 1941, years in which he and Walt were jointly driven to elevate animation as an art form, up through Snow White, Pinocchio, and Fantasia.
But as America prepared for World War II, labor unions spread across Hollywood. Disney fought the unions while Babbitt embraced them. Soon, angry Disney cartoon characters graced picket signs as hundreds of animation artists went out on strike. Adding fuel to the fire was Willie Bioff, one of Al Capone’s wise guys who was seizing control of Hollywood workers and vied for the animators’ union.
Using never-before-seen research from previously lost records, including conversation transcriptions from within the studio walls, author and historian Jake S. Friedman reveals the details behind the labor dispute that changed animation and Hollywood forever.
Join a book talk with the author Jake S. Friedman on March 21 @ 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm, at The Lambs, 3 West 51st, 5th floor. RSVP@The-Lambs.org. The book will be available to be purchased and signed by the author.
Jake S. Friedman is a New York–based writer, teacher, and artist. He is a longtime contributor to Animation Magazine, and has also written for American History Magazine, The Huffington Post, Animation World Network, Animation Mentor, and The Philadelphia Daily News. For ten years he was an animation artist for films and television as seen on Nickelodeon, Disney Channel, and Saturday Night Live. He currently teaches History of Animation at the Fashion Institute of Technology and at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. The rest of his time he specializes in mental health for the creative psyche.
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