We know that many of you, despite having reread every word of EVERYTHING’S COMING UP PROFITS and spent hours closely examining this very web site, still have “Industrial Inquiries” to pose and “Corporate Comments” to share. That’s why we’ve created this page … consider it your “place in the spotlight.”
- Memories of your experiences in the world of industrial musicals? Please share!
- Questions about anything we’ve covered? We’d love to answer, if possible.
- Suggestions on improving the site? Sure, if you must.
- Petty complaints about the book? Uh, yeah … “glad” to hear all about it.
We can’t, of course, personally answer every one of the massive number of letters, mailgrams, and postcards we receive, but here we will share the most informative and notable missives, for the greater good of the industrial musicals fan community and the further enrichment of the historical record.
So what are you waiting for? Come on! Send us a letter!
Q: When is the companion “Industrial Musicals Greatest Hits” CD going to come out? I do hope that it is in the works.
— Mark Tag
A: Mark, we’ve been getting this question a lot. What we’ve decided to do for now is to offer a very substantial three volume set on iTunes. We’ve selected the best songs of the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s, had the audio files professionally cleaned up and optimized, and now they’re ready to entertain and educate all over again. You can buy individual songs for 99 cents, or entire albums of 20+ songs for $9.99. Here are the links:
Q: I started writing and performing in industrials in the 70s. State Farm, McDonald’s, Ford, Sperry Univac – many others. I still do them… although the big musicals are a thing of the past. You guys didn’t mention the grandaddy of Industrials – the Milliken Breakfast Show…or maybe you did? I haven’t gotten my copy of the book yet.
— Jack Fiala, corporatesidekicks.com
A: Thanks for writing, Jack — we’re always thrilled to hear from someone who’s still out there getting it done in the corporate entertainment world. Just about anyone who was in the New York theater scene during the “Golden Age” asks us about the Milliken Breakfast Show. From 1956 to 1980, this big-bucks industrial was a yearly event put on at the Waldorf-Astoria by textile company Milliken as a way to show off the newest fabrics to textile industry executives and customers. As time went on, it got bigger and bigger, to the point where by the 70’s each show had several big-name stars as well as dozens of supporting players. A 1975 program lists Juliet Prowse, Dom Deluise, and Tommy Tune as the headliners, and the 1977 version featured Gloria Swanson, Ann Miller, and Jerry Orbach. Future stars who were in the 70’s shows as “Millikiddies” include Sarah Jessica Parker and Jane Krakowski. Sadly, none of the Milliken Breakfast Shows seem to have been recorded, and since the book approaches the genre of industrials through the souvenir records, we did not discuss it. The Milliken show is the industrial world’s Lost City of Atlantis: beautiful and impressive, but existing now only in legend, and some show programs.
Q: Is there a way these songs could be done in a musical review for our US Army community theater here in Germany?
— Christopher Nordvall
A: Hello, Christopher. There is nothing that would please us more than to present a revue of industrial musical numbers, and there’s no audience for whom we’d rather perform it than our military heroes. Thing is, it’s one hell of an undertaking, and unless we were involved with an interested producer (or, in this case, an organization such as the U.S.O.) capable of arranging the logistics, it’s simply beyond our means. However, “Industrialsmania” has only just begun, and we hold out hope that such opportunities will present themselves as the word spreads. Let’s keep our fingers crossed, and above all, thank you for your service.
Q: I love the cover of the GAF 60’s sales meeting record. I happen to work for GAF now. How can I hear the song that was performed?
— Jason, GAF Marketing
A: Jason, the two known GAF Floor Products Division shows, “Everything’s Coming Up Profits” and “Make The 70’s Grow — Whatever It Takes,” are pretty dismal. At their best, industrial musicals soar into the stratosphere of musical theater, with killer original music and lyrics, sparkling performances, and great sound and staging. At their worst, they’re like the GAF shows: murky recordings of clumsy song parodies, with a few no-name performers grinding out the material to the accompaniment of one piano. We love the great shows, but we also have a sweet pitying love for the terrible shows.
So far we’re focusing on sharing tracks we think are actually terrific, or at least awful in an awe-inspiring way. Eventually we may get down to some of the lesser stuff like the dozen or so GAF tracks. We’d encourage you to find your own copies and have a listen for yourself, but it might be difficult. Known copies of “Make The 70’s Grow — Whatever It Takes”: two. Known copies of “Everything’s Coming Up Profits”: one.
By the way, any chance you could get us a deal on some fine GAF roofing products?
Q: I’m wondering if you found things that were so politically incorrect, you had to leave them out. You wrote of an IM that mentioned marihuana brought in by Mexicans, but I suspect that’s the tip of the iceberg.
— Marilyn Sargent
A: In fact, no. Apart from then-typical portrayals of women in standard domestic or sexpot roles, the more egregious forms of stereotyping rarely figured into industrials. We’re not sure why, but I’ll float a guess: the “we can do it together” message of the industrial musical was fundamentally different than the crabs-in-a-barrel tendencies of the larger culture.
Today’s “reality” entertainment world is just as replete with obnoxious stereotypes as its sitcom precursor 30 years ago; the specific targets have simply changed. For example, the rich-and-famous-for-nothing gargoyles who populate the various “Real Housewives…” franchises; the “white trash” targets of mockery on “Honey Boo Boo” et al; the religious faithful who serve as easy targets for the cutting wit of such celebrities as Bill Maher.
Sure, there’s the occasional ethnic type, like a Chinese laundry proprietor in “Penney Proud,” but compared with, say, Mickey Rooney’s odious Japanese character in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” he’s the embodiment of dignity.
Then, as now, no clear minded adult had time for such idiocy. The creators and clients of our corporate shows, for all their cornpone and dorkiness, were nothing if not clear minded.
Q: Were shrimp platters and drinks at Sardi’s after the big show an IM tradition?
— Cheryl Levenbrown, New York City
A: While one might expect that industrial musicals staged in the Big Apple would partake of theater world traditions like this, we have no specific evidence of any such gala having occurred. Bear in mind that industrials were often presented as “dinner theater” in some of America’s grandest convention centers; there’s little doubt that fine food and cocktails were enjoyed before, during and after most productions. In certain cases, such as any shows staged in, say, Salt Lake City or other “dry” communities, anecdotal accounts indicate that performers often thought ahead and brought along a “little something for the occasion.” Regarding those who failed to do so, we can only regret their lack of foresight, and resolve never to make the same mistake. Thank you for your question!