Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Remembering Randy Savage

Remembering Randy Savage

On Friday May 20th I got the news at 11:30 AM that “The Macho Man” Randy Savage had died in a car crash caused by a heart attack at the wheel. I have to be honest with you, I cried. My breath was literally taken out of my chest.
You see, Randy Savage was one of my longtime entertainment heroes. His larger than life persona was one of the key influences of the character that would become my signature - “Big Daddy Cool” Johnny Dellarocca. It is not readily apparent, but at the base, BDC is really an influence of Orson Welles, Michael Jackson and Randy Savage. Sounds odd reading it, I know, but it works.

I first met Randy Savage backstage at the Richfield Coliseum in Cleveland, OH. My dad was friends with WWE Hall of Famer “Cowboy” Bob Orton and every time they were in town he gave us backstage passes. That was back in the early 80s. I met him in 1986 between Wrestlemania 1 & 2, right after he had won the Intercontinental Title from Tito Santana. He was in a minor feud with Hulk Hogan, one of many over the years. What struck me even then as a kid, was the focus and attention to detail he brought to his in ring performances. Backstage before the match he, Hogan and Miss Elizabeth were planning and reviewing every step of the match. It isn’t talked about much now, but I learned later that Randy was really the first pro wrestler to choreograph his matches. He was not content to perform “on the fly” like so many others. His commitment and attention to detail was embraced by Vince MacMahon and after Savage’s famous match with Ricky Steamboat at Wrestlemania III, became the model for matches in WWF/WWE. Watch any really well executed match today – the ones that are really outstanding – and that is a part of Randy Savage’s influence and legacy.
Randy Savage also scripted all of his on-camera promos. Seldom, if ever did he do what’s called a “shoot” where the character basically ad-libs his lines. Again, he was not content to just wing it. It was that important to him, and it showed.

Also, Randy probably had the most defined and intentionally thought out characters, His persona was so well developed that the minute you saw him, before he said a word, you know what he was all about. A lot of people credit Hulk Hogan as the template, but nobody did it better than Savage, and I use him as the illustration when teaching or coaching performance students.
Not everyone is a pro wrestling fan, I know. Some of you reading this may be asking what does this have to do with me? Well, if you are an entertainer I think the answer should be obvious. Randy Savage demonstrated that attention to details matter. Your act, whether musical, magical, dance, comedy, etc should be fully scripted, choreographed and rehearsed. Nothing should be left to chance and never should you be content to perform “on the fly”. Further, you must tell the audience who you are onstage. You must invest the time into creating an intentional, fully developed persona. You want your audience to remember you, and the only way to do it is invest the time. Love him or hate him, you can never forget “The Macho Man.” Follow his example and you’ll stand out above your competition.
If you are an event planner, it is important for you to also pay attention to details. Your business lives or dies by the details. Additionally it is important that if you hire entertainment for an event, that those entertainers have also focused on the details. The details are what separates a $125 birthday party entertainer form a $10,000 corporate entertainer. Is the entertainment you are hiring unique? Do they have a persona(s) that make them stand out and make them memorable to your guests/clients? Do you know what they are going to do and say? Are they consistent? Do they present a polished performance or just get up there and “wing it?” Important things to consider…
Randy Savage is now gone. Taken away too early (56), but the lessons we can learn from his long career are universal. Thank you “Macho Man.” You will be missed. Ooooooh Yeeaaah!

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