In this episode, I’m talking with my favorite publicist, Michael Caprio – owner of Caprio Media Design – about life as a publicist and the importance of being kind. Michael represents celebrities like Olivia Newton-John, Ian Ziering, Leeza Gibbons, Richard Marx, and Jon Secada, along with Vegas shows like Chippendales and Human Nature
Amanda: I appreciate you taking the time. I know you’re a busy man. You’re always in high demand. So, thank you for doing this.
Michael: Thank you for having me. I’m excited.
Amanda: Here is where I say lots of nice things about you. And since we can’t see you, I don’t know if you’re a blusher or not. One of the things I often tell people when they’re trying to move ahead in their careers is: do more than what’s expected of you. And one of the things that always stood out about you… we’ve had interacted a handful of times through different media events that we were both at, and your clients were there, and there was one particular one… and I’m an observer, so that’s a key thing for me to mention here. I pay attention. I don’t talk much, this podcast aside.
At this event – this giant media event, one of your clients was guesting in one of the shows that’s another one of your clients – there’s a lot of people in the room. And somehow… I’m pretty sure you talked to every single person in the room, made them feel important. I don’t know how you did it, because there’s just so many people. I don’t know how you keep track of that. But at one point, when you came in with your client, you said hi, he was hungry. So you took him to get some chicken because he really wanted chicken. And later on in the event, you brought him back over because you knew we hadn’t talked to him yet, which wasn’t something we had asked you to do. It wasn’t something we expected. Somehow in the sea of people, you made my friend and I feel very special. I saw that you did that with every single person in the room. And I’ve not seen that before or since.
So how do you manage to make that connection and be that aware of so many people’s needs at a time? And do you feel that it’s that important to do more than what was expected of you in that situation?
I want you to walk away with a moment.
Michael: Well, first of all, thank you for that. And thank you for observing. I do pride myself on those types of things… not so much as ooh, pat myself on the back… but the one thing as a publicist, and just as a human being in general, is that it’s important to know that when I’m throwing an event like that, and I’m inviting media, and I’m inviting influencers or VIPs or even just a regular audience member, they’re taking their time to come spend with us.
And as a publicist, and specifically in terms of a media event, I think it’s really important that everyone understands that being a PR person could look so glamorous, and it can look so… I can be bitchy because I’ve got this celebrity client. But we’re helping each other – you’re, as a media outlet, helping me with my client to promote my client. And I’m helping you by helping provide content for whether you’re a TV, radio, newspaper, blog… whatever it happens to be.
I always say that publicists are my least favorite people. I can say that because I’m a publicist. And I don’t say that across the board with everybody. There are a lot of publicists who I really respect and like a lot. But I do think it’s important that everybody gets the time that they need to get, with not just me or my client, but just in general for the event, because the takeaway has to be something positive. When I say that, it doesn’t mean ooh, because I let you talk to this client of mine, I’m gonna get a great review out of it. It’s more I want you to walk away, even if it wasn’t something you enjoyed as much as you thought, there was a moment that you can walk away with and go, yeah, that was really nice that… whether it’s a Tyson Beckford or whoever it happens to be, comes up to you and says hello. Because I’ve been very fortunate in my career, that I have clients that understand that importance, and they understand that being represented by somebody who represents their values is pretty important to them. And, again, that’s why… that night, I think I know what night you’re talking about.
Amanda: I don’t want to name drop on your behalf.
Michael: Oh, no, it’s totally fine.
Amanda: When you are as a celebrity publicist, and I think just when you live in Vegas in general, people always want something from you.
We all have to understand that we all have to help each other.
Michael: I think we all have to understand that we all have to help each other and again, whether that’s publicist and media outlet or just human to human. And I think, especially in the world we’re in right now, people are understanding kindness is very important. About a year ago, I lost my mom, and it was a very difficult time. And all of my clients were so supportive, so special, and that’s because there’s a mutual respect. They know that I represent them the way they want to be represented. I represent them because I actually believe in them as talent. And, at the same time, when we’re finished working, I can sit back and have a good laugh with them. Or when I lost my mom, I could have a good cry with them.
I’m not that type of businessperson who I look at, okay, how much money can I make out of these people in the next three months? I look at, okay, if this is what you can afford, it’s less than what I normally would be charging, but I truly believe in you. Whether this is a new talent who has no name recognition whatsoever, or somebody who’s super famous, for me it’s important to look at the big picture, and to look at relationships that are going to last 20 years as opposed to a three or four month contract.
Touch wood I’m blessed. One of my clients is Olivia Newton-John, and Olivia and I this year will celebrate 22 years together. And that says a lot about me, but it also says a lot about her. She’s very much about family and loyalty, as am I. I think that’s why we work so well together. She hired her assistant in 1977 when she filmed Grease. That person is still her assistant today, 43 years later. Her business manager has been her business manager, I believe, since 1970. Her manager has been with her as long as I have.
So again, it says a lot about who I look to, when I’m being approached, or if I’m approaching and, knock wood, I’ve rarely had to approach clients. It’s all been word of mouth for me, thank God, I’m the luckiest human being I know. I’m blessed to say that. I don’t say it to have ego. But I think one begets than the next. I was telling Olivia an interesting story, and I’ll leave the other celebrity’s name out of it. But we were in Australia a few years back and I was working with someone who I used to work with years ago. And I was working with his publicist, and his publicist was… let’s just say less than helpful. And I was like, okay, I’m gonna win this person over. Why is this person being so nasty to me? I don’t understand it. And something had happened, and I thought, okay, well, here’s a good way I’m gonna break the ice. And I said, “Hey, I’m going to be at this place. One of your clients is going to be there, too. And I hope we finally get to meet and have a drink together.” And her response to me in an email was, “Why are you going?”
Michael: Well, that was my reaction. And I was like, huh? Okay, that’s not how I would have replied to a question, but it visibly upset me because I’m like, what did I do this person?
My mom taught me 3 things: Be kind, be honest, and be forgiving.
Going back to what I said about losing my mom, my mom taught me three things. When she left this world last year, I vowed to take these three things that she taught me through the rest of my life. And it’s be kind, be honest and be forgiving. If you live your life that way, you’re going to live a much happier life, and people are going to be happier too. That’s important.
But at that moment, when that happened, I was with Olivia in Australia, and she walked up to me at breakfast, she walked up to me and she’s like, “Morning, honey,” and she gives me a kiss on the cheek, and I was clearly visibly upset. She’s like, “What’s wrong?” And I told her the story of what just happened, and she said, “Oh no. You need to call that person because he wouldn’t want to be represented that way. I know if that were me, I’d be very upset if someone who was representing me on my behalf acted that way, because that’s just not right.”
That’s why I choose to live my publicity career the way I do. Because in three years, or five years, or 10 years, that media person, or whoever it was, that had that interaction that was negative with that publicist, they’re not gonna remember that publicist was a jerk. They’re gonna remember that the artist, that talent, was difficult. And that, to me, is a really bad thing, because then you’re actually doing a bigger disservice to your client than you’re doing a service to them.
Amanda: You’ve touched on so many points that I relate to on that, because one of my big things is… A) I’ve had my share of experiences with all kinds of publicists, some not so great, and some like you. And it is exactly that, though. I remember which people were difficult to work with, and I remembered that association with the actual talent versus the publicist himself or herself. In any business, we have to align ourselves with people who share the same values that we do, for that reason. Whether you’re hiring a publicist, a manager, an assistant… anybody who is representing the same end goal, in theory. I’m a person where if I can’t work with you, and you’re negative, or it’s just not enjoyable for me, I won’t work with you. And I think it’s important to not just look at the financial aspect of how much is this person going to pay me. It’s much deeper than that. It’s what you said before. It’s not all about the money, it’s do I align with this person? Are our values the same? Are we going to have the same goals? And is it going to be fun for me? Because it should be fun for you!
Michael: Exactly. You hit a really good point. When I first started with my own company, there was a very high profile, very young music artist who was just coming out.. had a top five billboard hit, was a big deal. I was brought on to work this project, not as the representative of the artist, but through the record label that handled them. I was basically brought on as support PR to assist with certain things. Again, I don’t call people out on their names, but this person who was young. But I watched this person be so mean and nasty to their own personal team, their assistant, their manager. And I just thought, whoa, how about a little respect?
You have to respect the people you work with.
I don’t care, show business, air conditioning repair, whatever it is, you have to respect the people you work with. And I was like, oh, hell no. And luckily, I didn’t experience firsthand that disrespect, but it bothered me so much. This was back in the mid 90s, so I was in my 20s. And I was like, oh God. And I was being paid a nice sum of money at the time by the label to be support. And when the contract was up, it was a three-month contract, and I’ll never forget it. I spoke to my husband and said, “I’m not re-signing this contract.” And he totally 100% supported me and he goes, “You’re miserable. Don’t.”
So when I didn’t re-sign the contract, the label almost lost their mind. They were like, “Do you know where this person is going to be in five years? Do you understand the relationship that you’re burning a bridge? Their manager is going to go crazy…” and I said, “I really don’t care.” Because if this person is like this right now, odds are as they get bigger, they’re going to get worse. I don’t want to surround myself with that. I work almost 24/7 as it is. I don’t want to be getting phone calls at 11 o’clock about some nightmare over something insignificant and ridiculous. And I knew that person would be that person. And I can say, to this day, I know people who have worked with this person since, and this is over 20 years later, and everything I thought is exactly the way it turned out. So, as I like to say, I dodged that bullet.
Amanda: it’s a good point that usually if somebody is already that way before they’ve hit it big, they’re not going to get nicer as time goes along.
Michael: Well, and in defense of this person, again because I wasn’t on the phone with this person every five minutes. I was sort of that… I don’t want to say fly on the wall… but I was in the room, but I wasn’t the person who had to deal with the drama. I will attribute some of this to the team that was around them, because when the team becomes almost as important as the artist, they feed it.
Most artists have three or four people that they have in their lives on a regular basis – their assistant, their publicist, their manager and their business manager. Those are sort of the four, in show business, in my experience. And if you’ve got those four people telling you that you are the greatest thing, and don’t stand for anything less than this and that, and blah, blah, blah… You do become a product of the environment you’re in. This person was maybe 17 or 18 at the time, so you’re in that position of “I was taught this is how you’re supposed to act” and they’ve just become that.
I always look at the big picture – where do I see myself with my client?
Olivia has been doing this for over 50 years. She did her first movie when she was 15. Olivia has had a set of morals and standards and ethics that her parents instilled in her. It’s ridiculous how humble she can be, and is pretty much constantly, and never wants to be seen with an entourage. I’ll do a New York City press trip with her. We will spend two days doing everything from Good Morning America to People Magazine to The View… whatever we’re doing. 9 out of 10 times, it’s me and her. She usually does her own hair and makeup. She doesn’t travel with a glam team. I mean, we have had glam teams when it’s a bigger thing, and it’s a longer day, and as the day goes on, you want to make sure someone’s looking out for those flyaway hairs and things like that. But for the most part, she doesn’t want that. She likes to have a very low profile.
Other clients of mine are down to earth, same kind of thing. Ian Ziering, who a lot of people know from Steve Sanders, Beverly Hills 90210, but younger generations know him as Fin from Sharknado. I’m from Jersey, Ian’s from Jersey, we have that Jersey thing, and Ian is one of the kindest people on the planet. Every artist that I’ve worked with, whether it’s a Richard Marx, or whether it’s a Vinny G from Jersey Shore as our guest star at Chippendales. Vinny is one of the nicest, smartest, down to earth humans I’ve ever dealt with. And the perception of him is obviously very different for many people, from watching a reality show, but when you have one on one with these folks, you get to know who they are. And I’ve just been very lucky.
Amanda: Just for the record, Ian was the one in the story I told you about earlier.
Michael: I thought it was Ian. And I will not take full credit for it because Ian probably said to me, “Did we talk to everyone in that corner?” because that’s who he is. I don’t want to take full credit for being totally observant and aware, but I am pretty much that way. But that’s why Ian and I work so well as a team because we just treat people kindly. He knows he’s not where he is on his own. He’s there because of the people who have been there supporting him for 30 years.
And that’s how I want to be, and that’s how most of my clients… whether it’s a Jon Secada, who I’ve been working with, my gosh, for 15 years now. I always look at the big picture – where do I see myself with my client? And not just celebrity clients, but like Chippendales. I’ve been with Chippendales since the day I was in Vegas. I had moved to Vegas 16 years ago, and I’m still representing the show. And I love the show. And as the cast change over, I love them like brothers. The management team has primarily remained mostly the same. And we just have a really fantastic group of people, and that’s very important to have success. If you don’t have a team of people who there’s a synergy and a like-minded way of doing business, you may have success for a couple of months, but then it will all crash and burn.
Amanda: I remember thinking at one point, years ago, every single one of your clients you’ve introduced me to has been just like that. They’ve been very friendly, very easy to talk to, very down to earth. And I always wonder, do you just get the best clients? Or do you somehow craft them in a way that makes them kind? But I know that’s something that you can’t really teach. It is pretty much inherently who you are – if you’re a good, kind, humble person, or not. And we all have different levels, and we have different moments when we’re not at our best. And I usually don’t like to go to events, but if I saw your name on it, I would go every time.
As much as a client needs to connect with me, I need to connect with them.
Michael: Oh my gosh, now I am blushing. I’m glad you all can’t see me. But that’s true. And I think that, like you said, you can’t teach people to be a certain thing when they hit a certain point in their careers. That’s inherently who they are. It’s funny because so many people, you know, “Oh, can you can you do a proposal for me? I’m thinking of hiring your company.” And I’m like, okay, I hate doing proposals for people because the bottom line is if my resume and my history doesn’t speak for myself, then I really probably don’t want to work with you. Your goals are going to be unrealistic, and we’re probably not going to be the right match. So for as much as a client needs to connect with me, I need to connect with them, and I have to vet them just as much as they vet me. And that’s why I’m lucky.
I won’t say totally lucky because I do… 30 years of doing this, you do have a pretty good sense of people. Trust me, I’ve worked with certain people in situations where I haven’t had a choice, that I tolerate, I make the best of… and those people, to this day, will not know that it wasn’t a great experience for me because I don’t need to air my dirty laundry about who was or who wasn’t a nice person. I remember, but if anyone ever calls me and says, “Hey, we’re thinking of hiring this person to do this event. I know you worked with them. What’s your opinion?” I’m not gonna lie.
I firmly believe you just need to be honest.
I don’t like burning bridges. I don’t encourage people to burn bridges, because you never know where someone’s going to be the next day. But I firmly believe you just need to be honest. You need to be forthright. I’m a publicist that, some people I don’t work for in terms of their dynamic, because they want to be told, “Oh, I want to be on Ellen, I want to be on the cover of The New York Times Sunday magazine, and I want to be this, and I want to be that, and I need you to deliver me all of that.” And if I say to them, “We can definitely approach those outlets, and we can definitely go down that road, and I’ve got great relationships with those people. But this isn’t advertising. I cannot guarantee you anything.”
I have a pretty good sense of what I can deliver, but if there’s a PR person out there who’s telling a client who says, “Oh, I want to be on Ellen,” “No problem! We can do that!” I would tell that person, “Don’t hire that publicist.” Because for as great relationships as you have with people… and I’m blessed because I have wonderful relationships with people from, everyone from GMA, Today, to all the national talk shows, to all the local shows here in Las Vegas. That’s because I like them. And I think it’s why a lot of people who I work with from a media standpoint, we get along – because I understand not every pitch is going to work. I try to be as creative as I can and craft a pitch. A lot of my producer friends say to me, “Why are you publicist? You should have been a producer. You think like a producer. You think about how that segment is to air and how it’s going to make sense on my show, versus, hey, here’s my standard press release. Can we book so and so? It’s a great project.”
Sometimes you have to think out of the box.
Sometimes you have to think out of the box. And for me, that’s been my career my whole life. I have spoken at a lot of high schools and universities. I’m very big on supporting up-and-coming journalists, publicists, anyone in the media profession. Every year I have a scholarship in my name at my old high school for someone – it’s the Michael Caprio Mass Media Award – to encourage people to get into the field. But I do say to every single one of these students, “Look, do an internship. I don’t care what classes you take, because you’re going to have to take them anyway to graduate. So take those classes, excel in those classes, do 150%. But do an internship. And I don’t care if they pay you nothing. I don’t care if they’re paying your train fare into the city. Whether it’s, oh, yeah, we’ll cover your transportation and your lunch, do it. Because my internship is what changed my whole life.
I was a journalism mass media major at Rutgers in New Jersey. At their journalism department, you had to specialize. You could choose your specialization – you had to either choose print journalism, broadcast journalism, or public relations. My mother used to say to me, “Oh my God. You talk so much. Boy are you in the right field.” I was a cheerleader at Rutgers, so already I was kind of a PR person for the university to begin with, because we used to do all the events – football games, lacrosse games, or alumni meetings where they needed the cheerleaders to come in and rev up something in a conference room. It was kind of in my blood.
And that internship in Jersey, we had Johnson and Johnson was headquartered in New Brunswick, New Jersey, where our school was. A lot of other, AT&T and all those kinds of things, and I had no interest. I always knew I wanted to be in entertainment. And I was a big Broadway nut. I loved Broadway. I knew exactly who the big PR firm was. And this was in the 80s, so you had all the big British musicals, Phantom, Cats, Les Mis, Miss Saigon, all these shows coming into New York. And I knew that’s where I wanted to work, so I managed to get myself an interview.
Long story short, got the internship. My boss hired me to work full time during the summer. And then my senior year he was like, “Why don’t you just quit school and come work full time?” I was like, “My parents will kill me if I quit school after what they’ve invested.” So my senior year, I actually worked Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday at my job. I took all of my classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I would take the 6am train down. It would get me to New Brunswick at 7:00. My first class was at 7:20. My last class ended at 10pm. And I’d be back in the city by midnight. I did that for my entire senior year. I’ll never forget my roommates, they were like, “Hey.” My nickname was Cap because my last name is Caprio. They were like, “What are you doing man? You’re missing all the best parties! You’re missing all the best parties!” and I’m like, “Yeah, but I have a job already. I’m not going to be hunting when you all are hunting.” Luckily all my roommates went on to great success.
Just love what you do.
But for me, I knew my path. It was my passion. I think anything anyone does is all focused around “just love what you do.” We all have bad days. We all have crappy days. Not saying it’s all roses and chocolates. But at least I know when I wake up… I’ve rarely had a day where I wake up and I go, “Oh God, I’ve got to deal with that person today.” And that, to me, that’s success.
Amanda: Definitely. That feeling is why I left my job. I had a very similar path as yours where I worked all through college while everybody was out having fun doing their thing, thinking I was boring. But that laid all the groundwork for where I am now. I don’t look at that as a mistake at all. Like maybe I didn’t go to some parties. Just based on who I am, I wouldn’t have gone to the parties anyway, so I don’t feel like I missed out on anything.
Michael: Unless I threw that party, you would have come!
Amanda: Very good point. That’s absolutely true.
Michael: I’m just kidding.
Amanda: No, but it is true. Again, I see your name on it, I’m there. So you worked for about 10 years before you started your own company?
Sometimes what isn’t what you expect is the best thing.
Michael: I worked on Phantom and a lot of Broadway shows in New York. Then I moved to Europe for a few years to work on Phantom and Cats in Germany. Then I moved back to the US in 1992. My plan was to go back into the old office I was working in. I lived in Hamburg, Germany, and it was a wonderful time to be there because the wall had just come down. I have photos of me chipping pieces of the wall. I was being paid in tax as a German citizen, so I had all the benefits, I had all that great health care, six weeks paid vacation. So I traveled all of Europe and I traveled a lot of Eastern Europe, literally months after the wall came down.
Having experienced that, I was 21 at the time when I graduated from college. I finished my courses, but I needed to move to Europe prior to my actual graduation ceremony. I just did a video for my university, for Rutgers, for the class of 2020, who didn’t get to have a graduation. And I was like, “Well, I technically didn’t walk with my class either, because I had a job and I had to move. And I turned out pretty good.” Sometimes what isn’t what you expect is always the best thing for you, because you’ll get something out of it that you never would have if you didn’t take the leap.
I moved back in April of 1992, and there was a snowstorm of about 23 inches of snow. And after living in Germany, which was a great experience, but Germany… Hamburg is one of the most northern cities in Germany, so in the winter months, the sun comes up at 8:30-9:00 and goes down around 3:30, and it’s not great weather – summer is, like, two weeks maybe. I was like, no, it is April and it’s supposed to be spring here in New York, it’s snowing. I’m done. So I moved everything out of my Manhattan mini storage, threw it into a U-Haul, drove out to Jersey. My mother thought, “Oh my God. Thank God you’ve come to your senses and you’re moving back to Jersey.” I said, “No, I’m just stopping. I’m on my way to California.” She’s like, “But you don’t have a job.” I’m like, “Don’t worry. I saved some money when I was in Europe, I’ve got friends out there.” And I was like, I’m going to just wing it.
So I moved back to the US, and then moved to LA, and a friend of mine at the time was Rosemary Clooney’s manager’s secretary. She said, “Oh, Michael. Rosie’s publicist needs a temp just for three days, Wednesday through Friday,” and I said, “I just got here. I want to go to the beach. I want to look for an apartment. I’m in LA, baby! I’m gonna do the LA thing!” And she begged me and I… short version, I went to work for this woman as a temp for three days we, and we worked out of her house in Laurel Canyon. She converted half of her two-car garage into an office, so her assistant sat at one desk and I sat at the next one. There was this little curtain next to my desk and if I moved the curtain, I could see my boss’s Mercedes. So it was that kind of a setup.
Her name was Linda Dozoretz, and sadly she’s no longer with us, but I learned more from her than I could possibly imagine. When I got into the office, all I knew is that she handled Rosemary Clooney. Well, I get there and I find out she handles Rosemary Clooney, Doris Day, The Beach Boys, Burt Bacharach, Henry Mancini, Carole Bayer Sager, Redken haircare products, Martina Navratilova. Okay, this is… wow… all from her house, and me from her garage.
My mother used to call me the overachiever.
And as a temp, I’m one of those people who I can’t just sit there and answer telephones or do busy work. I learned as an intern when I worked for the Broadway PR office… and I’m convinced is probably one of the reasons why I got hired is… if they tell you, you have to do A and B. I just naturally would do C, D, E and F. Then they would be like, “Hey, well, you have to…oh, you’ve done that.” It’s just who I am. My mother used to call me the overachiever because in high school, I ran the track team, I was the star of the school play, I was the editor of the yearbook, I was the co-editor of our school newspaper, I was the co-editor of our literary magazine, I ran track, I was a gymnast. Literally, I was involved in almost every organization you could possibly imagine. For me, it was always just, okay, well, I know it’s gonna have to get done, so why should I sit here and wait for her to tell me to do it? Because I know that that’s what’s gonna happen. At the end of that three-day window, she decided not to bring back the girl I was temping for, and she hired me.
Luckily, one of her other clients was MCA Records, which is now Universal Music. We handled all of the television media for MCA when they had big events. One of the big projects we were working on at the time was when Bobby Brown was launching his album “Bobby,” and Whitney was announcing she was pregnant with Bobbi Kristina. My boss, for as amazing as she was, she did not like going out. She’s not a very social person. She would say, “Oh, Michael, could you go to that? Could you do that?” I was like, I’m very social, I love to be out. And suddenly I’m like, I kind of like being on the back lot at Universal. This is fun. I want to do this.
And there was no room in PR there, so they said, there was a job in the marketing department at Universal, distributing music and video. There was a guy who was looking for a new assistant, and his name was Joel Hoffner. I’ve always been a sponge and I tell everybody, “You’ll succeed in life if you actually listen. If you don’t always keep your mouth open, but you keep your ears open all the time, you’re going to get a lot further.” Joel was great, and he said to me, “Look, there’s an opportunity to be my assistant. I know it’s not PR and it’s not what you’ve been doing.” I said, “We’ll do it for a year and see where it goes.” When I got there, because we handled a lot of the catalog that MCA had at the time – a huge portion of the catalog was Broadway cast albums – and ironically, Cats, Les Mis, and Miss Saigon happened to be three of them, and those were three shows I worked on.
So, being me I couldn’t just sit there and type his memos and run his little errands. I said to him, “Look, if I do this, and it doesn’t interrupt what I need to do for you, can I start creating some promotions? Because I think we can do some really great things.” And he was like, “Do what you need to do.” And so what I did is I reached out to all of my publicist friends on Broadway and said, “Hey, I’ve got the cast album to Cats. And I know the tour is going out there. Would you like to do some radio promotions, and I’ll send you 30 CDs and as long as you include us in all of the radio mentions for your ticket giveaways — you win a pair of tickets, you win a CD, you win da-da-da-da-da.”
Well, I ended up doing that with as many of their Broadway catalogs as possible, from Jesus Christ Superstar to Joseph to… Tommy was just about to open on Broadway, and Tommy had yet to record their Broadway cast album. So the only real recording of Tommy was The Who’s Tommy, and they were huge artists for MCA. So I was like, okay, then we’ll do the movie soundtrack as part of your promotions as you’re going across the country trying to promote the opening. And Tommy was huge when it opened on Broadway. I don’t remember what the actual number was, but I remember catalog sales for this Broadway product, which was literally just sitting in their warehouses, increased dramatically in the window of time that I was doing this and they were like, lightbulb!
“Okay, wait a second. This guy who just came in to type memos has now actually increased our sales.” Then, when that year was up with them, and opportunities were changing. They had a smaller record label that they handled called Varèse Sarabande, and it was mainly a movie soundtracks label – they had Ghost, Terminator. It wasn’t the rock’n’roll soundtracks, it was the score of the film, and I was like, “It’s time to move on.” And he was like, “Nope.” So he called the president of that smaller label that they distributed, and connected us, and I went over and we sat down and they were starting…guess what? A Broadway division.
We talked for about two hours in his office and he obviously got a better picture of what my Broadway background was. And, I thought, okay, what’s interview two going to be like? And just as we were wrapping up, he folded his hands on his chest and he leaned back in his chair and he goes, “Well, I don’t see why this isn’t a good idea. What’s it gonna cost me?” And I’m this 23-24 year old looking at this man like, I didn’t expect this right now. I don’t even have a figure in my head. So I basically took my salary that I was making at Universal and I doubled it, plus a little bit more and he goes, that works for me and I’m like, dammit, I should have gone higher!
My goal was to start my own company by the time I turned 30.
But, I ended up staying there for about six years. My goal was by the time I turned 30 I wanted to start my own company. And through that record label, we started this Broadway division, and we did a lot of albums by big Broadway star names. A lot of them were calling me on the side saying, “Can I hire you separately to do my cabaret gigs?” Suddenly my side gigs were bringing me almost as much money as my job. I was like, I think it’s time.
I was very fortunate because there was an artist, the piano player named Jim Brickman. Jim and I had met socially once before and there’s a Mexican restaurant in LA called Merricks, and I happened to be in there with a friend. We were having dinner and I looked over and I saw Jim sitting a few tables over. So when I got up, when we were leaving, I just walked over to Jim’s table, and I said, “Hey, Jim, you know, just wanted to say hello. I saw you sitting here.” And he was like, “Michael Caprio, when are you going to leave that record company and come work for me full time?” I looked at him and I said, “Well, when you offer me a two-year contract, I’ll think about it.” And he took my business card, and the next day he called me, and he hired me with a two-year contract, because I’m like, I’m not leaving a job where I’m making a nice figure to go elsewhere. And that ended up being a great relationship. I said to him, “I don’t want to work for you. I want to work for my own company. I need to have that autonomy.”
And it was around the same time that Olivia came into my life. That was 1998. My husband always says, “You were born under a lucky star. Everything just kind of happens for you. Not that you don’t work really hard for it.” But success is skill and opportunity, and that’s how I ended up starting my own company. And I’ll never forget day one. I finished my job. My husband and I took a week’s vacation and we went to Hawaii, because I had never been to Hawaii. We came back, and I walked into my third guest bedroom, which had a sliding patio door that walked out to the backyard to the pool. I lived in Studio City in California at the time. And I sat at my desk, and I said, “What do I do now?” I go make coffee. And I’m not gonna lie, that first week, at night when my husband and I would pour a glass of wine, I would turn to him and say, “What did I do? What did I do?” He’s like, “You’re fine, don’t worry.” And after that first week, it was almost like I was working from 6am till 8pm. So that’s how I ended up starting Caprio Media Design, and that was in 1998.
If you can’t give back, what’s the point of getting?
We’re in a difficult time right now. I’m not gonna lie. It’s been something I never would have anticipated, with this whole pandemic, specifically shutting down Vegas, and shows, and entertainment in general. I mean, I know a lot of my clients who had projects that were set to shoot or film or record this year, everything’s been shifted to next year. It’s impacting all of us. Luckily, I’ve been smart over the last 22 years. I can’t complain because I can pay my bills, and have a roof over my head, and I can still put a little money aside. And there are people who can’t pay their rent, and who have to go to food banks, so I do as much as I can to help those people. Whether it’s doing pro bono events for them, or donating my time, or reaching out to my talent saying, “Hey, could you do these videos for these people? They’re not getting to do their fundraisers this year.
Perfect example. Olivia, who’s a big supporter of Project Angel Food, which is an organization in Los Angeles that originally started to bring meals to people going through HIV and AIDS. And now they’ve expanded to homeless, and general illnesses, and lots of different things. Like a lot of our events here in Vegas, AIDS Walk and AFAN and all those folks, they’re not getting to do fundraisers which are so critical to their survival.
My friend Richard, who used to work at CBS, and my friend Brad, who used to be the EP of Entertainment Tonight, he was working on this. They reached out and said “We know we honored Olivia six, seven years ago as woman of the year.” I forget what the actual title was, but would she do a video? And I called Olivia and she’s like, “Oh my God. Absolutely.” Olivia has done more videos right now. Actually, all of my clients have done more videos right now because they all understand how blessed they are, that if it takes five minutes to record a video to send to someone who’s going to help raise money. And this organization did a telethon on KTLA in Los Angeles. They had a goal of raising $500,000, and they raised $705,000 in one night. I’m like, we need to do a telethon like that right here in Vegas. I know we did one at the onset for the entertainers, but if you can’t give back, what’s the point of getting?
Amanda: It’s just going back to what you said about picking the right clients that you’re working with, and the values, and being able to give back. It’s one thing when you’re doing all the fun events, and there’s a lot of benefits that come to a job like yours. Just being in production, it’s fun work for the most part, I get to work on a lot of exciting things. I’m not sitting in somebody else’s office doing bookkeeping all day. There’s a lot to be said about appreciating everything from it, but also being able to give back. This is part of who I am. So if I can help some people get their businesses in order, why would I not do that?
Michael: Especially when you have a skill. It doesn’t matter what your skill is. If your skill is building, and you can help by helping to build houses or cribs, or if you’re good at auto repair and there are people who can’t afford to get their cars fixed, or whatever your skill happens to be, especially right now in the world we’re living in, which can be very toxic. You can choose to be positive or you can choose to be negative. We all have choices in life. You can choose to be kind, you can choose to be a bitch. It’s just respecting people and being kind to people.
Don’t mistake kindness for weakness.
Leeza Gibbons, who’s been a client of mine, is another one up in the Olivia level of people. She is one of the most amazing, professional human beings on the planet. She’s taught me so much, but Leeza’s big thing is, “don’t mistake kindness for weakness.” And I always remembered that because you can be kind, it doesn’t mean that you’re weak. You don’t have to be a bitch and be strong so people think you’re strong. I will always walk away from every experience remembering those words from Leeza, because it’s just, it’s truth. That’s just how life is.
Amanda: You keep taking the words out of my head.
Michael: See? My friends always tell me, you should’ve been a producer. You think like a producer!
Amanda: You do! And it’s so fantastic because you’re doing more than what’s expected of you, and you build these relationships. One of the big misconceptions in business is that you can’t be kind, that that is a weakness. I say all the time that the two reasons I’m probably underestimated are because I’m quiet and because I’m nice, but those things when you’re working in business on any level, you’re working with people and people are more likely to work with people who are nice.
It drives me crazy when people do not respond to emails.
Michael: One thing for me is communication. It’s our business. It’s what we’re doing. It’s why we’re here. I’m here to communicate whatever message my client is trying to get out there. The person on the other side of the camera or microphone, they need content. One of the things that drives me the craziest is people who do not respond to emails. It is one thing that’s been a hindrance to our business. It’s been a great progressive move as well. We can get so much more done. I can do more on my iPhone when I’m sitting on an airplane flying across the world.
I remember the day, oh my God, we got a fax machine that you can program 100 phone numbers into. And I can put that fax on at night and then the next morning, look at the report and see oh, it didn’t go through to these six numbers. I have to resend it. That was technology. Now I can hit a button and send a press release to 5000 people. But for as much as it’s been a great thing for our business, it’s also taken away the social aspect and the relationship building. Because a lot of people who are in PR, especially young people who are getting into the field, they don’t understand. It’s not just looking pretty on a red carpet and snapping selfies of yourself, looking glamorous with the step and repeat behind you. It’s a lot of work and developing trust and relationships.
Most people today don’t answer their telephones, so email does come in handy, especially if it’s someone you don’t know, or if it’s a new person. I will always like to pick up the phone and call that person. If they’re reaching out to me, “Hey, I’m a new writer at Entertainment Weekly, and I want to do something on blah, blah,” first thing I’ll do is send an email, “Hey, do you five minutes to chat?” And if I get that, “Yeah, I’m free now,” great. Sometimes they ignore it, and they just keep emailing you. The relationships are really important, especially in PR and entertainment. The one thing I pride myself on is, even if I get an email from a person who has a podcast that they’re just starting, or a blog that has maybe two 200 followers, and it’s about Olivia or Ian or whoever, I will always respond to that person’s email. I won’t guarantee them that I can get them that interview. I’ll say, “Let me see what I can do.” But I find it’s so much better to give that person a response so they don’t feel like they’re ignored.
I get so many emails back. “Oh my God, thank you so much for the reply.” That says to me I know a lot. I have a lot of publicist friends who, if it’s insignificant, or if… like, I just got one from this 13-year-old girl in Brisbane, Australia, who’s doing a school project on Olivia Newton-John. She emailed me and said she’d love to interview her, and I said, “Unfortunately, with timing and time changes and everything, it’s going to be tougher, but if you can get me 3 to 5 questions, I’ll see what I can do.” And Olivia, being the person she is, I’ll email it to her and Olivia would then, maybe less than a day, I’ll have the answers back. And then I’ll send it to that 13-year-old girl. I don’t say we can do it all the time, but the fact that someone knows you were on the other end of that email is important.
And I say to a lot of journalist friends of mine, “Hey, here’s the pitch.” If I get no answer, especially if it’s someone who I don’t know, that makes me almost more annoyed and I want to send them an email every six hours. Because, as a publicist, every pitch is not going to be a “yes.” So “no” is a completely acceptable answer. But just how when you’re going back from that red carpet to your boss to say, “Who did you get?” as a journalist, I have to go to my client and say, “Okay, look, Entertainment Weekly passed, or Ellen passed, or whoever it is, but at least it’s not, “What’s the status with Ellen?” “Well, I don’t know. They haven’t gotten back to me.”
I’m lucky that I’ve been doing this long enough, and I’ve developed relationships that I pretty much get most of those people to at least give me a response. And like I say to all of them, “no” is a completely acceptable answer, but just say no, so I don’t keep harassing you. Because it’s my job to reach out to do the job I’m here to do, and me going back to my boss telling them I haven’t heard back yet just makes me look like I’m not doing my job. That’s why again, it goes back to just respect. Say no. That’s totally fine. Then I can check you off my list and I won’t bother you again. And I think that’s important.
Amanda: It’s one of my huge pet peeves as well. Even the random people that email me through LinkedIn wanting to sell me something, I respond to them, because I know what it feels like when you’re reaching out to these people. I had done that documentary about U2 and there were a lot of different people that we had to reach out to, and working with different publicists. I get that people are busy and maybe they don’t want to take time with somebody they don’t know. There were certain people that wouldn’t say anything, which to me is the absolute worst.
Going the extra mile to where A) you reached out to me – you might be reaching out to 1000 people, and that’s fine. I’m not going to be the one that doesn’t get back to you. Even if it’s just a quick “I don’t have any need for your services at this time. But thank you for reaching out.” Just something to say I appreciate that you’re a human trying to make your business work. I can’t help you right now. But I see you.
My business has been 100% referral based. And it’s because I might get a call from somebody, and they need something and I’m not available, but I’ll refer them to somebody who might be able to help. Or if they ask me a question, and I don’t know the answer. I’ll say, “Well, give me a little bit of time. Let me look into that. I’ll see if I can find something out for you.” Everybody’s trying to do something to move ahead in their… whatever it is that they’re doing. So if there’s any tiny thing I can do to help, that’s what I want to do.
Have respect for what everybody’s doing.
Michael: That’s exactly my mentality. It goes back to my mom. Be kind, be honest, and be forgiving. Just be kind to that person. Be honest with, “Yes, this will work for me” or “No, it won’t for me.” And if they say no, or something happens, you just got to be forgiving to the sense of okay, well, this just didn’t work this time around. Let’s wait for the next one. They’re all pretty simple things, but if I had to add a fourth thing to my mom, it’s just respect. Have respect for what everybody’s doing. We are all the exact same person. We all have great days. We all have bad days. We all have feelings. We all have hurt feelings. We all have happy. You acting like you’re better than someone else because you represent someone who’s “A-List,” that just makes you a shitty person. And that’s the bottom line.
I think it means more to me is when I get an email back from someone who’s… especially a random who I have never worked with before. And I just reply back with… whether it’s an, “Unfortunately, we’re not doing anything right now. That’s not going to work.” Even the “no” makes them feel like okay, at least that person heard me. They read my email. I didn’t waste that 10 minutes or half hour, however long it took them to draft that.
We owe people that kind of respect because we are all in this together. I mean, I know it sounds like a trite catchphrase and everybody’s using it right now. If anything this pandemic has taught us, we are all the same. It doesn’t matter if you’re rich, you’re poor, you’re successful, you’re not successful, we are all pretty much in the same boat. If you can take whatever position you’re in, or whatever boat you’re in, and pull someone out of the water, it’s that little act of kindness that that is going to go so far because that person’s going to remember it.
As I mentioned earlier, I do a little scholarship every year to a student at my old high school and probably my favorite piece of mail I got all week was this little thank you card from this senior in my old high school, who sent me a thank you card for the scholarship. I won’t read the whole thing, but, “Words cannot express the gratitude I feel for the difference you’ve made in my future. I will continue to work at it as passionately as I can. Thank you so much.” That means more. I’m here to help you and it’s this kind of thing that really matters.
If you have no passion, you really have nothing.
My husband and I, we have no children. We will never have children. It’s never been something I’ve wanted. But our future… it’s all about young people. And you know, young people have to be passionate. Actually, everybody has to be passionate. It’s not just young people. If you have no passion, and I don’t mean in a romantic sense of passion, though, that’s good, too. If you have no passion, you really have nothing in my mind. Because you’re waking up and you’re living a pretty boring life. And I am the luckiest person I know. I live a pretty great life. I’ve got great people around me. I’ve got great friends. And I wake up every day loving what I do. There’s nothing more. Be kind. That’s it.
Amanda: I knew I liked you before, but I like you a whole lot more now. Thank you so much for taking the time. I know we’ve been trying to get together for a lunch for like a year and a half. So I knew that with this pandemic, my chances were much better to get you right now.
Michael: I just think it’s great what you’re doing. Let’s get more voices out there and positive messages because we really, really, really need it right now and just, why not. Alright, you, well thank you again for having me!