Bigger plans follow ‘Yellow Brick Road’
People may have great ideas but they hesitate to act on them, says Sandra Teckenbrock, and when someone else has a great idea, they question it: “Oh, do you think you can do that?” Teckenbrock doesn’t shy away from ideas. Though she calls the private investment Bulls & Bears Club she introduced in Rancho Mirage several years ago a “million-dollar mistake” in the local market, she’s moved ahead full steam and put her energies into Yellow Brick Road Productions and a new theatrical production company called WiseGuys Productions.
I am so jazzed about this particular project [WiseGuys Productions I that I see no way we are not going to be successful,” Teckenbrock says. “The valley is so open up for entertainment. … People are recognizing that this is a town that will support you if you give them good-quality productions. We are really going after this tooth and nail.”
“This” is an aggressive programming of live theater – no less than five different productions in the planning and production stages.
The basis from which these projects stem belongs to Yellow Brick Road, ready to begin its third season of television programming geared toward the alternative lifestyle (defined by the company as the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community). YBR’s founding governing board included Palm Springs Mayor Ron Oden; Charles Sharples, president of the Desert Business Association (a chamber of commerce of gay and lesbian businesses); Michael Green, head of the Desert Gay Tourism Guild; and Bill Feingold, head of the Hate Crimes Commission and now a Palm Springs City Council member.
Teckenbrock describes Yellow Brick Road as “a show that features things and places and people who are not necessarily gay, but who are of interest within the gay community.” The show resulted, she says, from her partnership in a smallniche advertising company. “We heard our advertisers say,
‘How do we reach the gay and lesbian market, which is huge in the Palm Springs area? We want this particular market – which has a very high disposable income to know that we want their business.”‘
Yellow Brick Road Productions introduced its interview-style program on Time Warner Cable with host Dana Adkins. The show began with local advertisers such as Preferred Plumbing, J&J Consignments and Valleywide Builders. Most signed up for a full season, and it worked out extremely well, Teckenbrock says. Now Yellow Brick Road has signed its first national advertiser: Norwegian Cruise Lines.
When Yellow Brick Road begins its third season of 36 interview-style shows on Sept. 28 (shown locally on Time Warner Cable Channel 4 at 10 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday and Friday), it enters an expanded realm. The company has purchased time from Cox Communications and Adelphia Cable to reach West Los Angeles (including Beverly Hills, Santa Monica and the San Fernando Valley), Orange County (including Newport Beach, Tustin, Irvine, and Laguna Beach) and San Diego.
“We will be approaching [other advertisers] who we know want to reach this market,” Teckenbrock says, “and I believe it will have far more appeal to them because all our advertisers are getting this expanded coverage in Southern California at no additional charge. She notes that the new coverage area reaches a high percentage of people who come to the desert as visitors or have second homes here. “The areas we are targeting are not only major market areas, but they are major markets for this particular type of niche advertising,” Teckenbrock says. “it helps us in selling advertising because now we have something more to sell. … It means we take a little bit less in profit, but we’re building a base. As we expand, then we have the opportunity to take the show out farther.”
Teckenbrock says the new Southern California broadcasts constitute an experiment in entering other markets. “We would like to think about going into San Francisco, Seattle, possibly Las Vegas. There are some very key markets that I think would be very receptive,” she says.
The idea for live productions didn’t take off immediately. “Two years ago, we talked about it, but we didn’t do anything,” Teckenbrock says. However, the company’s production of Thats Entertainment on Labor Day at the Atrium in Rancho Mirage sold out. “People were approaching us about, ‘Why don’t you try this?’ and ‘Why don’t you try that?,”‘ she continues. “It’s very exciting when you are meeting people who have new concepts and things that you never thought of before and you see the possibilities, and I am a person who likes to see the possibilities.” Bringing grand ideas into fruition, however, required more logistics than Teckenbrock could manage single-handedly.
“Larry Wise came in last year and really took over the principal position in Yellow Brick Road so I could move over and devote more of my time in [live theater],” Teckenbrock says. She says she had three productions in mind when Wise, who had a second home in the desert, decided to move here from Dearfield, Ill. He “wanted to do something” when he heard about Yellow Brick Road, she says, and now he is her partner in WiseGuys Productions.
Live theater productions begin with an eight-night-plus-matinees run of Swish at Palm Springs High School in January. Written specifically for WiseGuys, the musical comedy by Dennie Fridkin is set in New York’s garment district.
On Aug. 20, WiseGuys held auditions in Los Angeles for another custom show: The Birdcage Revue, a high-energy, high-camp musical revue featuring nationally known female impersonators from Las Vegas and Los Angeles. WiseGuys productions will include local performers, but “wherever we have to go to get the talent that we need, we’ll do it,” Teckenbrock says. “We have a very cosmopolitan market here. People come from all over the world. They expect the best. We have that thought in mind with everything we do. It has to be a firstclass presentation.”
The Birdcage Revue will premiere at The Villa Resort Palm Springs in Cathedral City, which is in the process of building an outdoor theater as part of a major renovation (see story above). Other shows in the works include A Tribute to the Memory of You and The Dream Catcher, which have only been produced in small venues in Florida; The Big Voice – God or Merman; and Hangin’ on by a Thread, a New York-style cabaret written by Irwin Rubinsky of Cathedral City. The latter show enjoyed several successful seasons at the Wyndham Hotel in Palm Springs almost 10 years ago. Teckenbrock says the material will be updated to reflect current events. “We are looking forward to having a lot of repeat people who were original fans of the show and getting a new audience,” she says.
Teckenbrock laments the decision by Palm Springs Desert Museum’s Annenberg Theater to limit its schedule to in-house productions. “One of the problems that exists here in the valley is the availability of venues. And with the Annenberg closing its doors to any outside production, it shuts out a lot of people. It’s a beautiful facility. We were hoping to book that up. So it’s difficult now to find places to put on the shows that we want to do.”
In addition to the high school and Villa Resort, WiseGuys productions will be performed at Heaven nightclub in Palm Springs. But WiseGuys’ aspirations extend beyond local venues.
“These shows are not being done just for presentation here. Because if they work well here, we are taking them out of the valley,” Teckenbrock says, mentioning West Los Angeles and San Diego. And while the material often includes a gay theme, the productions are intended for a broad audience.
“Reaching the alternative lifestyle market is where we began. This is a community that has been so supportive of us, and we would always, always present everything within that community that is of interest, but that doesn’t mean that we are not going to go outside of that arena,” Teckenbrock says. “And all of our shows, I think, appeal to the total crossover audience. I think they’re for everyone.”
Copyright Desert Publication, Inc. and Sharon Apfelbaum Aug 31, 2004
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