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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Answers to the most common questions asked by clients
6. In your price quote, you offer a discount for booking within a certain amont of time. . I don't think we can make up our minds that quickly. Can we still take advantage of the lower price -- our party isn't for several weeks/months?
8. I sent you the form with my info but I never heard back from you. When are you going to get back to me?
10. Why do I have to fill out that whole, long Contract Info form? Can't I just give you the info over the phone?
13. You're asking for a credit card as security, but we're going to pay by check, in full, day of the party. I'm not comfortable giving out my credit card to strangers.
17. Can I get a celebrity performer to make a quick phone call to prank a friend? OR.... I need a couple of minutes of video of a celebrity impersonator. This shouldn't cost more than $100-200 since the performer doesn't actually have to go anywhere...
Ten Really Annoying Questions that Irritate the Hell out of Entertainment Agents (and which we hear way too often!)
A: We accept Master Card, Visa, American Express. If you prefer to pay the performer when he/she arrives at your event in cash or by check, we can use your credit card as collateral only. We won't run the card unless you cancel, bounce a check, neglect to bring money day of the party, etc.
Even though we may not be using your credit card for actual payment, any card used to secure a contract must be valid and with enough credit on it to cover the full amount of the contract. NO EXCEPTIONS!
Please note: if you are using a checking account debit card as collateral, the amount of the hold, while still technically in your account, is frozen and will NOT be available to you for spending Thus, if you write checks against it, they may bounce! If you are using a credit card, it will affect the amount of credit you have available. We will release this HOLD as soon as the performer is paid/your check clears.
A: A celebrity lookalike, by a fluke of genetics, happens to look like someone famous. It's very rare they also have the same talents and abilities as the actual celeb so don't expect the Tiger Woods lookalike to be able to kick butt at golf or the Ricky Martin lookalike to actually sing.
A celebrity impersonator (or tribute artist) is a talented singer, dancer and/or actor who, through makeup, wigs, costume and of course voice and body language will effect the look and sound of the celeb and recreate his/her act.
It's very rare indeed that you find a genetic lookalike who can also perform like the original (although there are couple -- my LA "Bono" and PA "Reba McIntyre" come to mind.)
For entertainment purposes, you're usually better with an impersonator.
A: Celebrity impersonation is an art. It's mostly makeup, costume, smoke and mirrors. I've seen impersonators on stage who you'd swear were exact clones of the actual star, but when you see them up close, they look NOTHING like the celeb. It's all about illusion. So yeah, maybe the Sammy Davis Jr impersonator is taller than the real Sammy. Maybe Tina Turner's ankles are a little thicker than the real diva's. Nobody is a identical to the original, and if they are, well, see above...not likely that they actually have the same talent. But when they're on stage, you will believe! And, more importantly, be entertained.
A: I get scores of calls a day and have to "triage" constantly. I try to get back to every client within a day, slightly longer if it's over a weekend. The more info you provide in your email query or your phone message, the more quickly I can get back to you with meaningful information. Because of the volume of calls/emails we get, if you do not provide complete information, your request will likely get shunted to the bottom of the list. If leaving a telephone message, please be sure to speak clearly and repeat your phone number twice. You'd be surprised how many times that info is completely unintelligible. (I know....lots of us are New Yorkers and tawk fast... but alas, my ears don't hear that fast!)
Once we've spoken, it can take anywhere from 2 minutes to 2 days to get a response from a performer. If it takes longer than that, I'll try to remember to keep you in the loop, or feel free to call me again. You "bug" me and I will, in turn, "bug" the performer again for a reply.
A: We try to get contracts to clients within one-two business days of receipt. If it's been longer than that and you haven't received anything, please call us! It's possible that either your contract info form or our contract somehow went missing in cyberspace.
I recently had a somewhat ditzy client who called me a couple of hours before her party to tell me where the performer should park. "I'm sorry," I had to tell her, "but I never got a contract form from you, I never sent you a contract, I don't have a deposit. When I never heard from you again, I assumed you'd changed your mind. "
"But I did fill out the form," she whined.
"Didn't you notice that you never got a contract in return?"
"Oh, I thought I just had to fill out the form and that was it."
"No, you have to sign a contract, provide a deposit or collateral, etc. Without that, I cannot book the performer."
So, the onus is on you, dear customer, to make sure we have received and acknowledged receipt of your contract.
Q: In your price quote, you offer a discount for booking within a certain amount of time. I don't think we can make up our minds that quickly. Can we still take advantage of the lower price -- our party isn't for several weeks/months?
A: Sorry, but no. This is not a "surcharge for late booking" but rather an incentive for clients who make a quick decision and tie up the details fast.
When a client inquires about a performer, I have to call around, gather information, often get/edit/send photos or videos, maybe update my website, etc. If I don't hear back from the client in a timely manner after providing that info, I have to field calls and emails from the performers: "Am I still needed on that job?" "What's happening with that gig?" Multiply that by hundreds of jobs/performers and you can see how time consuming this is. It just adds to the millions of things on my daily TO DO list.
I simply don't have the time or woman-power to follow up every general inquiry. The assumption is if the client is interested, they will get back in touch
Maybe the client does finally get back to me but because some time has passed, I cannot be sure that the performers are still available. That means I have to make those calls all over again.
Also, I cannot go to contract with my performers without a signed contract from the client. No performer is obligated to hold a date for me without that contract. Thus if the client takes too long to make a decision or to return a contract, performers will often take another booking in the meantime. This has been happening too often lately -- I spend HOURS answering client questions, getting avails and pricing, etc etc... and then...when the customer is finally ready to book, the performer is no longer available and there's nobody else to fill the job.! All the time and effort I have previously spent, trying to put this together, is for naught.
Or -- as happened twice last week -- clients will discuss entertainment options with me for weeks but wait until the very last minute to actually go to contract.. Thus, at the 11th hour, everything is RUSH RUSH RUSH -- I have to draw up the contract, wait for the faxed contract in return, check the credit card, track down the performer to give them the info, update my files, get back to the client if the performer has any questions, etc. making everything more stressful for everyone. (Inevitably, this takes place on a Friday evening when I'm trying to get out of here!)
One client "dicked around" for weeks and finally, at 3:30 on a Friday, sent me back the contract for a job the same night! I told her that, at this point, I didn't even know if I would be able to get in touch with the performers in time to give them the info. At 5pm, my assistant left and purely by coincidence, ran into the performers on the subway! She informed them that the job was happening and we managed to pull it off.... but it was ONLY because of that bizarre stroke of luck that this client got her entertainment!
And I can't tell you how many times a client will ask for all kinds of info, call/email me a dozen times with questions, requests for photos, videos, more info....then never actually sign a contract. Many times, they just stop calling and don't even have the courtesy to let me know they are no longer interested.
Time is money, thus, the discount rewards those who make my job easier.
Given this recent spate of lost jobs because clients waited too long to go to contract, this policy is now STRICT.
A. As we say in this biz, the client is paying for the performer to put aside his/her time, rearrange their day, brave traffic or public transportation to get to the job, get dressed and made up, get into character. That's the "job" part. Actually performing is the fun part. It's more likely a performer will give you a little more time for the same amount (or just a little bit more money) vs. less time for less money.
A: I try to reply to reasonable requests within one or two business days however I do not reply to unrealistic requests AT ALL. Not long ago, an amateur film maker asked me to provide 3 rather esoteric lookalikes for a film he was making. He was willing to pay $100 each. Needless to say, I did not call him back. Another person emailed me, wanting a Joan Rivers impersonator for Oscar Night (this request, just, a few weeks before the Academy Awards, as if every Joan worth her salt hadn't been booked for months!) It was for a small local charity in a small town somewhere, far from where any performers on my website lived; and his budget was $200. Again, I did not reply. There are pricing guides on the lookalike pages as well as some of the main dancer pages for clients to use as a guide; to know whether a performer is within their budget. For example, celebrity impersonators do NOT do "singing telegrams" for $100-250 -- this is clearly stated on the lookalikes pages -- and thus, I do not reply to these requests.
Also, very often I reply via email and the mail gets bounced back to me because the client made an error in their email address. Or they leave a phone number with no area code.
A: I've tried to put general pricing with each category (i.e. the celebrity lookalike pages have a *** system; belly dancers and singing telegrams have ball park pricing on those pages. For most other things, you're just going to have to ask. Generally speaking, the more original/unusual the act, the more talented that performer is, the more expensive s/he will be.
Except for basic singing telegrams in Manhattan (and possibly Brooklyn) NOTHING is $100. Telegrams in other cities can cost up to $250. Other than a 5-10 minute telegram, the occasional children's performer or a belly dancer ($250-300), I have nothing less than about $500. Performers such as psychics, caricaturists, etc. run about $225-250/hour, however they do have two-hour minimums.
Hopefully this will help you determine if something is in your price range.
Q: Why do I have to fill out that whole, long Contract Info form? Can't I just give you the info over the phone?
A: No, because not only do I use the info on that form to create your contract, but ultimately it becomes the job info sheet for the performer. Since the replies are all in your own words, there is little room for confusion, error or miscommunication.
I had an event planner who, after filling out the form and signing the contract, informed me (three days before the party) that his client wanted the celebrity impersonator to sing a song she (the client) had written, to the tune of one of the actual celeb's big hits. The song was awful, in very bad taste, insulting to the guest of honor and furthermore, had more stanzas than the original and thus, the performer didn't even have the music for it. It was a ridiculous request and the performer refused to do it. ("All I need is this showing up on YouTube and my career is over!" she said.) My client had already signed the contract (no mention of the song) and paid for the performer's air tickets. HIS client didn't want the performer WITHOUT the song, and so, the job was cancelled, but the event planner was liable for the tickets and the full amount of the contract.
That was major, but even a minor problem can cause a job to go awry. I always ask for a land line phone number as well as a cell number. Often clients say, "Oh, don't worry! My cell is always with me." Not long ago, one of my dancers could not find the restaurant where she was to perform. She called the client's cell -- the only number that was provided -- every 5 minutes for about an hour but the client never picked up. Apparently, her phone was in her handbag, on the table, and she was up and dancing! The place was noisy and she never heard it. By the time the performer finally reached the client, the party was nearly over and it was too late to do the job.
Also, a client might casually mention something to me over the phone when discussing what they want, (i.e. a particular song or costume request) but not mention it again, expecting me remember and relay that info to the performer. Now, I can juggle quite a bit in my forebrain but really, folks, I can't possibly be expected to remember every little detail I discuss with each of my scores of clients. There are bound to be lapses. If it's important to you, please write it down. That way, there are no disappointments.
Also, many performers do multiple characters or different kinds of acts. Under "Type of Act: Sasha for 1/2 hr show" can be confusing because she is both a hula dancer AND belly dancer. And though you and I may have discussed what you want initially, by the time I send her the info, I might well have forgotten, and you might end up with a hula dancer at your Arabian Nights party!
My performers and I need to know the exact scope of the job before doing a contract. I've had clients ask for a price quote for 2 hours, fill out the contract form, then tell me later they need the performer for 4 hours. Well, fine (maybe) but it's certainly NOT going to be the same price, which requires the contract be redone. I've had clients ask for all kinds of extra "favors" after the fact, which they think are "no big deal" but which can completely change the entire job -- perhaps even affect which performer I use. (i.e. "Oh, and we want him to a personalized roast, too." Well, maybe that's possible, given enough time to write one, but that's hours of prep work before the job so clearly it's not going to be the same price. And that also assumes that the performer assigned to that job is CAPABLE of writing/performing a personalized roast. Not everyone has that talent.)
Just as you would not like us to spring "extra charges" or special requirements on you after you have agreed to a price and conditions (i.e. "Oh, by the way, I forgot to mention that the performer will need limo service to and from the party, and a bottle of Dom Perignon, which you are required to pay for"), please don't do that to us!
I realize a lot of people have an aversion to filling out forms. (Relax! It's not the SATs! There are no grades!) In their stress, they sometimes provide incomplete answers just to be done with it quickly. That means either the performer doesn't get all the info he/she needs (which can prevent a performer showing up at the right place/time and/or doing the act the way the client envisions it) or if I happen to notice the info is missing, I have to chase the client down to get those missing bits, which is a waste of both our time.
A client recently neglected to provide a land line for the restaurant. Rather than bothering him for it, I Googled the venue, assuming I'd be able to pull the number from their website or business listing. No matter which way I searched for the place, including several variations on spelling, I was unable to find it. After calling and emailing the client 5 times, he finally got back to me with the actual name of the restaurant and their phone number. The name was so different from what he originally wrote (implying a completely different style of ethnic cuisine!) not only could I not find it on Google, but my performer probably would have driven right past the place when trying to find it the night of the party! (Fortunately, it was resolved before the event -- no harm, no foul -- but if the performer had been unable to find the venue because of the incorrect info and unable to reach him on his cell, the client would have been liable for the amount of the contract.)
So please, to assure that you get the type of perfomance you want, and that your performer shows up at the right place at the right time, fill out the form completely and correctly!
A: Sorry, but we don't have one -- a brochure would be outdated in a week. Anyway, we offer SOOOOO many things, it would be have to be the size of a phone book! All our info is on the website which is updated nearly every week, sometimes daily. We're always adding new things and deleting acts that are no longer available. Much more efficient!
A: You probably don't have the proper software installed on your computer. Most of what you might need is free to download. Please go HERE for links to sites from which you can get what you need..
A: Ahhhh...so you don't trust me, but you want me to trust you? As an agent, I guarantee my performers payment. They know when they work with me, they will be paid immediately. Because I do this for them and because they trust me, I am able to get the best people who go that extra mile for my clients. But I can't make this promise to them if I don't have that promise from my client. What if your check bounces? What if you "accidentally forget" to bring your checkbook? (Happens all the time!)
I had a client who SWORE the performers would be given a check night of the event. It took two years in small claims court to get money from him, Meanwhile, I was out $1700, which I paid to the performers night of the party. That taught me the hard way to NEVER send ANYONE out without collateral from the client!
It really doesn't matter if you're a private citizen or a corporation, I need either payment in advance OR a valid credit card number as collateral against payment day of. Sorry but no tickee, no washee.
A: This is getting to be a big question for a lot of corporate clients and even some venues. Certainly some of my people are insured (i.e. circus performers, those providing electronic games) however most of my performers are freelance actors and dancers who simply cannot afford the additional (and outrageous!) cost of liability insurance.
I had a corporate client who busted my chops relentlessly to get the rock bottom price, and when I gave them the best price I could, finally told me that their legal department was insisting that the performer have insurance! That was the deal-breaker.
Have you checked the prices of liability insurance lately? If my performers were insured, their fees would probably be several hundred dollars more for each job. If you absolutely insist that the performer have insurance, it's possible we can arrange it on a job-by-job basis, but please be prepared to pay for it (usually $200-250 per job.)
A. A performer most likely turns down other work for the same date and time so s/he can work at your party, If your party is cancelled -- for whatever reason -- the performer is left with no income for that time slot. Sorry, but we have a strict non-cancellation policy to protect our performers from exactly this situation.
For the same reason, we cannot offer rain dates. A performer cannot set aside two dates (turning down other work for both) for the price of one job. So while, yes, s/he is going to work only ONE of those dates, in order to make him/herself available for both your dates, s/he will have to turn down other work and be left with NO work for one of them.
Some performers (not all) are willing to negotiate "rain date insurance" whereby the client pays more going in (typically about 50% of the total amount of the contract) and the performer agrees to hold both dates for the client. The availablity of such "insurance" and the amount is entirely at the individual performer's discretion.
If you need a rain date, please inquire and we'll try to arrange it, but do expect to pay more.
A: It depends on what you're looking for and where it is. I've booked singing telegrams on a 3-4 hours notice For last minute jobs, weekdays are usually easier than weekends, when performers tend to be booked up further in advance. Obviously, we prefer to have at least a couple of days, but it's possible. Performers who are more high-end (such as celebrity impersonators) are less likely to be available on fewer than a weeks' notice. But hey, it dun hoit to axe!
But please...be realistic!
I've been asked to fill jobs on 45 minutes notice. Do these people think I have a transporter and can just zap whoever they want, wherever they want? Sorry, but we are bound by the law of physics!
I had a woman call me the Tuesday before Thanksgiving looking for some kind of entertainment in her home on T'giving day. First, she asked for my strolling human table (which clearly isn't designed for a living room situation -- unless you live at Versailles!), and which costs $2000+ (the price is listed right with the photo!) I gave her the price which quickly made her change tack.
Last week, at 3:30pm on a Friday afternoon, a client called looking for some sort of entertainment for a small party that same evening at 7. I must have made 15 phone calls on her behalf, hustling to find one of the choices on her list. Within an hour, I'd found her first choice performer, in her price range, Guess what? She'd changed her mind! Now that is just rude! If you're going to ask me to put aside everything else to find you a last minute performer, please be prepared to book him/her!
Another client left several long, ranting messages, starting at the crack of dawn on Friday morning before Memorial Weekend. She wanted a singing telegram, way down on the Jersey Shore on Saturday night (Need I explain how insane the traffic situation would be and how long it would take for anyone to get there?) "I'm Italian," she said, "but the Jew in me only wants to pay $200." Not only was she totally clueless, but offensive as well! I did NOT call her back.
Q:. Can I get a celebrity performer to make a quick phone call to prank a friend? OR.... I need a couple of minutes of video of a celebrity impersonator. This shouldn't cost more than $100-200 since the performer doesn't actually have to go anywhere...
A: I get this question a lot! People are always shocked and even offended when the cost for such a thing is more than they think it's worth. They do not understand what's involved. First, we are a business. What we sell is our time and talent, and that's what you are paying for...regardless of how it's being used.
Second, as an agent, the amount of work for me is the same whether I have to set up a 30 second phone call or an appearance at a party. There are emails, phone calls, contracts to write and process, scripts to edit and go over, etc. Thus, my fee is the same. A performer has to set aside his or her time at precisely the time the client wants the call made, learn or familiarize him/herself with the script. Get into character.
As for videos, well! Those are even more complicated. "Oh, just shoot a few minutes with your iPhone," clients say. First, very few performers roll out of bed looking like the celebrity they impersonate. There's makeup, wigs, costumes, etc. Then there's finding the right background to shoot against (maybe finding or clearing away a place in their home, or fixing up a set.) And who's going to shoot the video? That requires enlisting the help of yet another person.
Have you ever tried to do a short video, using your phone or computer? How many takes did you need? Even the silly little video snips I make for my friends (i.e. a birthday wish) take at least half an hour before I get them just right. (Of course, I am a perfectionist, but then, so are my performers. And that's what you want, isn't it?)
Even though the final clip might be only 30 seconds, it will likely take at least an hour to actually create it.
So, yes, we can do such things, but the price is not that much less than an in-person appearance. Figure a minimum of $300 for a phone call; $500 for a video (and perhaps more, depending on the performer.)
It's just not worth the performer's (or my) time for less than that. Sorry!
A: When you go direct, it's a crap shoot. A good agent (and I am one!) carefully vets her performers, to assure quality entertainment for her clients. Over the years, I have rejected many performers, or later removed them from my website for a variety of reasons, sometimes in spite of them being good entertainers. Some of those reasons have included:
Remember, too, that I am holding your money "ln escrow" so that if, for example, a performer runs into a problem and doesn't show up (highly unlikely), you immediately get your money back. Most performers dealing directly with clients insist on at least 50% up front...good luck getting that back if they don't show! (And I've heard of unscrupulous performers who take deposits from clients with no intention of showing up!)
Also, some performers have been known to take jobs from clients at negotiated lower prices, then when something better comes along, they cancel on the first client. If a performer does that to an agent, word gets around fast, and agents stop using them. Direct clients have no idea who those performers might be.
Other agents and performers talk (ours is a small community) and, like Santa, we know who's bad and good! We know things a performer would never tell you about him/herself!
So remember, there is more to a top notch performer than JUST what you see in photos and videos. I would rather turn down a booking than send a performer who is going to embarrass you and me!
There is more to being an agent than just taking orders!
My prices are fair and reasonable; my performers are all totally vetted by me. I use ONLY professional, RELIABLE people. I never fill a job with "just anyone" to get a booking. I give clients an honest assessment of performers' strengths and weaknesses (if any.) Furthermore, I make sure that each performer has everything they need to do the job. I've been in business 30+ years and am very good at planning in advance for all kinds of contingencies so there are no unpleasant surprises.
I make sure to get accurate venue info including directions, where to park, where to enter, where to change, etc. I had a performer call me one night in a panic. He was on another agent's job and was lost in an neighborhood he didn't know. The other agent (now unreachable) had given him the wrong address. The performer called me, because even though it was not my gig, he knew I'd help him. (And I did!)
So when you book with us, you're not just booking the performer, you're getting OUR years of experience and reliability as well.
Some agencies use sub-par, less expensive performers just to be able to provide SOMETHING to a client with a limited budget. Or they bait and switch (i.e. show one performer's photos/video to a client then send another, less experienced performer in his/her place.) That's something I NEVER do! Any photos or videos you see of my peeps are current and accurate. I do not use 20 year old pix or heavily Photoshopped or airbrushed photos. (Of course, this IS show biz, so there may be a lot of smoke and mirrors involved in the actual performance.)
Personally, I would rather lose a sale than recommend a mediocre performer. My feeling is, you're better off with NO entertainment than entertainment that's going to embarrass you in front of your guests! There is one agent (who shall remain unnamed) who NEVER refuses a job. He will go out, himself, as anyone the client asks for, from Frank Sinatra to Frankie Vallee, From Steve Lawrence to Stevie Wonder! (I believe he once did a female celeb in drag rather than lose a booking!) I've heard so many horror stories about this guy, it's hard to believe he's still in business! (I guess PT Barnum was right! There's a sucker born every minute!)
In my years in business, I've learned how to "wrangle" and soothe sometimes tempermental or neurotic or insecure performers, as well as how to reassure those clients who tend to micro-manage.
I know the benefits of honestly conveying to the client exactly what they will be getting, so there are no unfulfilled expectations or disappointments. That way, the client can decide in advance, based on various options.
I have an excellent working (and often personal) relationships with all my peeps. They trust me because I treat them fairly; have respect for their talent (and convey that respect to the clients); and I pay them immediately. Because they enjoy working with me, they are more likely go that extra EXTRA mile for YOU.
Fortunately, I have a lot of repeat clients -- private citizens who make a lot of parties, corporate accounts and lots of party planners. They know they can count on me to provide top notch performers, excellent and reliable service at reasonable prices. When THEIR reputation is on the line, they depend on MY reputation. I take that responsibility very seriously.
A Yiddish proverb:
Normally, if a client asks for a certain performer, and the performer is available and within their price range, as quoted in the initial conversation, 90% of the time, they will book her/him.
Lately, however, I've been getting a LOT of inquiries wherein I quote/negotiate a price and the client says "OK, that's do-able. Please find out if the performer is available. If so, I definitely want him/her." Then, when I call back to let them know the performer can do it at that price, they've suddenly decided it's too expensive.
Please, people, if you can't afford it, based on my initial price quote, don't waste my time and my performers' time!
I recently had a customer who said OK to a price for a lookalike. It took me several hours to track the performer down, then she had to make a few calls to see if she could rearrange her schedule to make herself available...and when I finally called the client back to tell her we can do it, she counter-offered with $300 less than my quoted price!
That is just rude and offensive! For anyone who thinks this puts them in a better negotiating position; that I will lower the price in desperation, just to keep the booking, they'd be wrong. Frankly, such dishonest behavior offends me so deeply, I am quite disinclined to offer ANY concessions.
If you can't pay the asking price, please don't make me hassle my performers for nothing!
And don't tell me "YES! I definitely want this," then string me and my performers along for weeks, finally telling me at the last minute you can't afford it or have changed your mind.
I've had several clients recently who've asked for photos, videos, all sorts of information and concessions, and have even gone so far as requesting a contract, then kept us hanging on for weeks without signing, with a new excuse every day ("My dog ate my contract!"), finally backing out just a couple of days before the event. Meanwhile, my performers had been holding the date for them.
Yes, clients have a perfect right to have their questions satisfied before commiting, but at least be honest and let us know that you're still deciding. Don't say "YES!" when you mean "maybe." If you have a limited budget, be honest and we'll do our best to work within it, but don't try to negotiate AFTER we've agreed upon a price and after I've done all the work.
I realize economic times are hard, but that's no excuse for jerking performers (or agents) around! We are all suffering in this crisis so please, a little consideration! . And don't swear up and down that you DEFINTELY want something (which keeps my performers in limbo) only to tell me later you've changed your mind. That's just a waste of everybody's time, including yours!
Is this you?
Q: So, you don't have [whatever] in my area. (Or, you don't have [such and such] in my price range.) Can you refer me to someone else who might be able to help me?
A: You're kidding me, right? If I KNEW that such a person or act existed, don't you think I'd be booking it myself? If you're telling me you can't afford my services, why would I direct you to someone who could provide it cheaper (assuming I even knew of such a thing?)
A woman called me recently looking for a specific and somewhat unusual lookalike for an event in Miami. I did have someone in Orlando but she didn't have the budget to bring him down south. The conversation went like this:
"Don't you have anybody local, somebody I could get for about $200?"
"Sorry, but Orlando is the closest. And even if there were somebody in Miami, he certainly wouldn't be $200." (My website is pretty clear that celebrity impersonators DO NOT do cheap telegram type appearances.)
"Isn't there ANYBODY in Miami who does [this celeb]?"
"It's not as if there is a lookalike for every performer in every city. There is only one such lookalike in Florida. The others live on the west coast, so if you don't have the budget to bring him down from Orlando, I can't help you.."
"Are you SURE there's nobody in Miami?"
"If there is, I've never heard of him." (Now I'm getting annoyed.)
"Well, can you recommend someone who might be able to help me?"
"Ma'am, if I knew somebody in Miami who looked like [so and so] and would work for $200, don't you think I'd be booking him myself?"
She seemed to be annoyed at me for not providing her with the name of another company, but really, is that not the height of chutzpah? Would she have walked into a store and asked the owner to direct her to a competitor who might have the same goods for less money?
Q: You mean you don't have [name of celebrity lookalike] in my city? How can you call yourself a lookalike agency?!
A: Ah, if I only had a cloning machine and transporter, I'd be rich! Good celebrity impersonators tend to live where the work is: New York area, southern California, LA, Vegas, Orlando/South Florida, with a few in Chicago, Seattle and Denver (although there seem to be Elvises and Marilyns in every market.) Even still, not every city has every lookalike.
So, sorry, Duluth, Cleveland and Salt Lake City, as lovely as your burgs may be, there are not a lot of options for this kind of entertainment. Of course, we'll be happy to send you a performer...if you're willing to pay the traveling fee (usually in the $1200-2500 range) plus all airfare, ground transportation, accommodations and food. If you've got the budget, we'll go anywhere! (and have -- including India, Japan, Spain, Panama, Kuwait and more!!)
Q: Boy, I didn't realize that a Sinatra/Elvis/Madonna/Whoever impersonator would cost so much. Do you have another Sinatra/Elvis/Madonna/Whoever impersonator who's maybe just starting out in the business and charges only like a hundred bucks?
A: We only use experienced, professional performers with proven track records. I believe you're better off with no entertainment at all than with crappy and/or embarrassing entertainment.
Celebrity impersonators start at about $500 locally and go up from there. Most are in the $600-900 range. If this is not within your budget, perhaps we can help you find some other type of performer but please...no whining about how you don't have the money for what you really want. I, too, want a lot of things I can't afford. Alas, such is life.
Q: You quote a price of X. We don't have the budget for that. I'll give you (x-$100). That's a decent price for an hour's work.
A: Since when do individual clients dictate to business owners what is "fair" pricing? (the market as a whole dictates fair pricing.) I cannot imagine these same customers doing this to any other business -- a store owner, a hairdresser, a parking garage! Why people think they can do this to us, I have no idea.
Of course, prices are sometimes negotiable, to a small degree, but please don't tell me what's a "fair price" as if I gave you an "unfair" price to begin with, especially when you have no idea of the costs of running such a business. If you don't have the budget, tell me and together we will try to work something out but please do not denigrate the value of my or my performers' services in an attempt to get a better price.
Q. OK, so you said $800 for an impersonator act.. We want (The Beatles/The Rat Pack/The Three Stooges/The Bluz Bros/The Marx Brothers.) How come they're so much more money?
A. Well duh! Have you forgotten third grade arithmetic? Remember those multiplcation tables? If you're hiring more than one performer, you're paying for more than one performer.
Q: Do you have [name of B or C or D list celeb]?
A: Performers make a living in this business by impersonating celebrities who are in demand by the public, so no, I don't have lookalikes of:
(These are all actual requests I've received over the years!)
Neither do we have every B, C and D list celebrity, has-been or wannabe who ever walked the planet. If there's no public demand for that person, there's no reason for a performer to go to the effort of developing and marketing an act.
We don't even have "clones" of every A list celeb because some of those people simply don't have doubles in the biz. (How do you imitate, say, Brad Pitt, if you don't look exactly like him?)
And don't even get me started on all the requests I get for doubles of child/young teenage stars! (A few years back, I'd get 3-4 Hannah Montanas a week!) How do you think such a performer would get to their gigs? Is Mommy going to drive her/him to birthday parties, bar/bat mitzvahs and Sweet 16's all over the state? Is s/he going to fly alone to a cross country booking?
Now, I did have a talented, young-looking adult performer who did "Hannah Montana" but being that she'd gone to the considerable effort and expense of working up the act -- getting costumes and wigs, learning the songs and dance moves -- she asked for her normal lookalike price. And most parents do not want to pay $600-800 for children's entertainment. For the most part, it's not worth a performer's time to put a such character together.
Q: We're a TV show/student film/charity/non-profit/student group with no budget but we need performers. This will be "good publicity" for them. Can you help?
A: Sorry, but we're running a business. Performers (and agents) need to pay their bills too. We all donate generously to the charities of our choice and unfortunately cannot give away our time to everyone who asks (and believe me, we get several requests a month.)
Particularly galling are TV shows which receive millions of dollars from advertisers then cry poverty and expect a poor actor to work for bupkes -- often with no guarantee the segment will even be aired!! Our performers are not slave labor. You want talent? Please be willing to pay for it.
I once had a request from a radio station down south who wanted my George Bush impersonator to call the station during morning drive time (like 6am!) for a few minutes, as a joke. The budget? ZERO! Why in God's name, would I or my performer waste my time on this? The performer should wake up early in the morning to do this DJ a favor because...? I should put aside my paying customers and handle his request because...? (They were not going to mention the performer's name or the name of my company, so there was no "PR benefit.")
But the award for Most Chutzpah goes to a radio station DJ in Ireland. He phoned and left me a message at 4am!!! He wanted to interview one of my performers and was asking for her personal contact info (something I NEVER give out). He left a message with his phone number, asking me to get back in touch. (Not even an email!) Right. As if I'm going to call him in Europe at my expense, to give him personal info on a performer, at no benefit to my business, after he's woken me up in the middle of the night!! I don't think so!
Q. We have a very small budget but want [a performer whose price is way more than we can afford] but don't worry, you'll get a lot of other business out of my party! It'll be good advertising for you. (ok, technically not a question but annoying nevertheless)
A. Yeah yeah yeah. Like we haven't heard THAT one before! I figure it this way: If you don't have money to pay for my performers, chances are neither do your friends. (When I "discount" to one client, every future referral call that results from that booking, also expects the same discount. ) Who wants to advertise to a bunch of people who can't afford our services? Frankly, we get lots of business referrals from EVERY party we book -- yes, even the clients who pay regular price. Go figure.
Q: It's my friend's/brother's/sister's/mother's (etc) birthday and s/he has been having a really tough year this year. S/he is such a wonderful person and we really something special for her/him. She's a big So-and-So fan and we'd love to have an impersonator make an appearance at the party. We only have $100. Can you help us make this a birthday to remember?
A: I get these all the time. The client wants to do something really special for a favorite person but they don't want to make the necessary sacrifices needed to pay for it, yet they expect me and/or my performer to make the sacrifice for a complete stranger.
One (obviously crazy) woman called me several times a day for weeks begging to hire a certain performer for her "only son's wedding" at half the going rate. She tried every which way to get me to give her this performer at BELOW my cost! ("Don't worry, you'll get a lot of bookings from this party." and "He's my only son... I really have to do this for him!" "You have to do this for me. I don't have the money!) After a few of these conversations, I simply stopped answering the phone when she called (although she continued to leave long, insane messages!)
Another request for an impersonator in Staten Island (which, if you're from NY, you know you cannot get to easily from anywhere, especially without a car!): "It's my aunt's birthday. She's such a special, fun person and she deserves the best you've got to offer." Her budget? $100! She wants the best for practically nothing. Hey, don't we all?
I don't want to sound harsh, but if your mother/father/husband/ wife etc, is that special to you, save your sheckls, work double shifts, sell your long hair or watch fob -- and pay for what you want. Would you go into Best Buy and ask them to sell you a thousand dollar big screen TV for a hundred bucks as a favor for your poor sick mother? I doubt it. (And if you did, I assure you, you'd be laughed out of the store!) We are running a business. My performers (and I) expect to be paid the industry rate for our work and our time.
(FYI, we do not reply to such requests)
Q: Wow, performers make a lot of money for an hour's work. I guess I'm in the wrong business, eh?
A: I doubt it. Chances are if you were a talented performer, you WOULD be in this business. And it's not as if these folks are earning that kind of money 40 hours a week. Most of them make all their money only on the weekends. They have worked hard on their craft, spend a lot of money on costuming, training, wigs, production, marketing, professional videos and photos, etc. and earn every penny of their fees. If they are to be available for parties and events, they have to be able to support themselves. Ditto for the agents.
Q. I'm not sure who I want for my party. Can you get me pricing and availabilty on (a long list of performers) and I'll decide which one I want?
A: I'd be happy to give you ballpark prices for the various performers on your list, and even help you narrow down the list to one or two who'd work best for your event but alas, I do not have the time or staff to call a dozen different performers if you're ultimately only going to book one.
I had a client who wanted me to get pricing and availability of every Marilyn Monroe and Elvis in my "stable" for a possible event. They would decide which one they wanted based on price. I asked them to check my website, see who they liked, and give me a short list. I never heard back from them. In other words, they wanted me to spend HOURS putting together a proposal yet they couldn't even be bothered looking at a few photos and narrowing the field.
Another client (a party planner) asked me for pricing and availablity for just about everyone on my website!! (Needless to say, I did not call him back.)
It's not any different than speaking to a commissioned salesperson in any business. You wouldn't say "Tell me the price of every item in the place." (If you did, you'd quickly be dismissed as "not a serious buyer.") A serious customer says either, "I have this much to spend; I need these features; please tell me what's in my price range," or they'd have a look around and choose one or two things to their liking and ask for a price, and work from there.
Q. "How much does it cost?"
A. How much does WHAT cost? You would not believe how many people open with this question! I have no idea what they want, where the event is, what the event is.... Come on, people... need the info!
Pricing varies from $150 for a singing telegram in Manhattan /NYC (more in other cities) to a $250,000 for an actual celebrity (not a lookalike). You can see why I'd need to know a little more before quoting a price.
Q: Do you have anything available around here?
A: Another classic "opener." Hello!!???! How am I supposed to know where "here" is? You can see why I might need a little more information!
Here's how these conversations tend to go (and I get several of them a month!):
What do you have in my area?
You know...near Smallville. Right near the big mall.
I don't know. What have you got?
Not really. I just want to know what you have to offer in my area.
I've fielded enough such calls over the years to know that callers who are vague, spacey, don't understand the obvious, cannot express themselves clearly, are unlikely to actually book anything, no matter how much time I spend with them or what I suggest. These types also tend to have unrealistically small budgets and little understanding of how business works.
As any professional person, I am going to devote my time and energy to clients who seem serious about using my services. Those who are not, get referred back to my website... probably never to be heard from them again.
On the other hand, I'm always happy to help someone who's serious about booking entertainment but needs some guidance. i.e. "We're having a large 50th birthday party for my husband, such and such a date, such and such city and state, mostly family and friends, looking for some entertainment that would be appropriate for the crowd. My budget is X.
For these clients, I am happy to help narrow down some choices in their price range. With a little questioning, am very good at finding something perfect for them.
Q: We booked our party a while ago, but now we have to cancel. The party is not for another couple of months. Can we have our deposit back?
A: Our non-refundable deposit is non-refundable. (see above) That means we don't give back deposits. Hence, we cleverly call it a "non-refundable deposit." If this is still unclear (as it seems to be with some people) please refer to the definition below.
Q: I booked a singing telegram for my friend and she called me afterwards really upset! She was totally humiliated! I want my money back!
A: Certainly if a performer does not perform as described or do what we promised he would do, I will offer a refund, but if you book something that is inappropriate for the recipient/venue/event, we accept no liability. If you send someone a large bouquet of flowers and they have an allergy attack that sends them to the hospital, do you get angry at the florist? Would you take a nun a male stripper?
I do my best to describe the act as accurately as possible. It is the client's responsiblity to know what is appropriate for their event.
I had a client who booked samba dancers for a corporate event. The photos of the dancers in their costumes are on my website. When they arrived, her boss's wife, who was a very straight-laced religious person, was horrified at having such scantily clad women at the event. (Fortunately MY client wasn't upset with ME...)
Years ago, somebody sent me to a well-known businessman to do a BubbyGram. Well, as you might imagine, Bubby is all about kissing and pinching cheeks and lap sitting. That's what she does! Alas, the recipient was a germophobe and that poor man could not get me out of his office fast enough! (I didn't learn this until later. Had I known, I would have been respectful of that quirk and done my thing from a distance!)
I would never promise that ALL our acts are appropriate for ALL audiences. It is for you to know what your guest of honor/guests would enjoy.
Q: I emailed you about a performer using the General Email Form on your website and never heard back from you. Why not?
A: Because you used the wrong form!!! The General Email Form says in 3-4 separate places "Do not use for job inquiries. Use this form instead." Still, at least three times a week someone uses the wrong form to inquire about their event.
The general email form does not have spaces for all the information we need to provide a meaningful answer (i.e. what kind of entertainment do you want? Where is the event? What kind of event is it? What's the date? How long will you need the performer? What do you need the performer to do? etc.)
When an inquiry comes to me on the wrong form, I know immediately that this person is going to be "difficult." Again, it comes down to "triage." Because my time/manpower/resources are limited, I try to avoid dealing with clients who add unnecessarily to my work load. Inability to read a simple English sentence and/or follow a basic instruction means I will ultimately have to go over things with them 2, 3, 4 times; explain over the phone...again...the very details which I wrote in an email, etc. I am actually a very patient person but puh-lease! I'm already working 14 hour days!!
Q: I'm not very good with computers/email. How do I... open your contract (Word file)/print the contract/copy and paste/reply to an email/fill out the form/find a page on your website? etc. etc. etc.
A: I cannot tell you how many times I've functioned as "Help Desk" to clients who really have no idea how to use their computers. I recently spent 45 minutes on the phone with a client explaining to her how to scan the contract and send it to me via email as an attachment. She'd never scanned or attached anything before! Helping her was made particularly difficult because I was totally unfamiliar with her scanner software and email program. (We finally did it!)
Again, I try to be patient and helpful as best I can, but come on, people! The new millenium is well into its second decade. Computers and email are NOT going away. It's time to bite the bullet, get over your fear of technology and learn the basics! Sit down with an 11 year old and let her teach you the essentials. Take a free adult ed class at your public library. Get a book and teach yourself. If you don't learn this now, you will be completely left in the dust and isolated from society in 5, 10, 20 years! Unless you are in your 80's, you have no excuse! (Even my 92 year old mother in law finally got a laptop and learned how to use it!)
Q: Can you find me a belly dancer (or whatever) for my party? Get back to me with a price. Meanwhile, I'm going to keep calling around...
A: And we're back to the old "triage/time management' issue. If I know a client is going to be calling around, speaking to every other agent in town, the odds of me actually getting the booking are greatly reduced. Thus, my time is better spent with clients who are working exclusively (or fairly exclusively) with me. (Remarkably similar to dating!)
And believe me, agents know which clients are calling around -- because when we call the performers they tell us, "Oh yeah, I've already gotten 5 calls on this one already." At that point, the client moves down on my priority list.
While pricing might vary slightly from agent to agent, there is not enough variation to warrant a client calling 5 or more agents. These types of clients seem to think that somewhere out there will be an agent whose price will be MUCH lower than everyone else's. Since these clients are obviously unable or unwilling to pay a realistic price, it makes no sense to invest a lot of time in them.
(Thank you for letting me vent!)
Need a website for your business? Call Adrienne (212) 353 3886