It’s not that Larry Marshall did badly in show business.
As a hunky Hollywood heartthrob with a booming voice, a winning smile, ripped abs and a pet monkey riding his shoulder, he had a pretty decent career before “retiring” at age 21.
Still, interviewing Larry, 68, I couldn’t help wondering how far he might have gone if, a half-century ago, during auditions for Broadway’s “West Side Story,” he’d have been able to pull off a triple tour jeté. More on that below. I don’t want to mislead you. There’s nothing about this story that’s sad.
Larry, teamed with his life- and business-partner Joy, does not do sad, not even when telling how a $20 million fortune slipped through his fingers in the dot-com crash of 2000.
It was, in fact, his optimism that cost him the Big Bundle. Having cashed in on a “lucky” $28,000 stock market bet on a start-up named Dell, he couldn’t wrap his head around the fact that Dell, along with the other tech stocks in his undiversified portfolio were tanking.
“I had complete faith,” says Larry, “that things would turn around.”
The loss, however, says Larry, merely gave him a better appreciation for life’s priorities, like good health and the relationship with his beloved.
Besides, he adds, and Joy concurs, “When one door closes, another opens.” (What Larry doesn’t say is that if the new door sticks, he’ll kick it down—or talk it into opening. Joy, on the other hand, will unstick the door with her tireless determination.) For instance, when plans to relocate from Southern California to New Zealand fell through in 2003, they didn’t complain; they hit the road.
Joy, who’d driven through the Rogue Valley, said the landscape reminded her of kiwi country. Larry agreed to move to Ashland sight unseen.
Since then, they’ve made their mark with businesses that incorporate a community-minded component. Marshall Fundraising Management, with its slogan, “Doing Well by Doing Good,” produces special events, including last year’s Pear Blossom Festival and next springs’ “Dancing with The Arc Stars,” to raise money for The Arc of Jackson County, a non-profit that “enhances the lives of people with developmental disabilities.”
Their latest venture, Great Day Jobs, is a temporary employment agency tailored to meet the needs of performers and artists who can’t make ends meet plying their crafts. Larry, who’d founded Marshall Consultants, an executive search firm, knows the industry; having been a performer, he knows how critical a day job can be. He once peddled memberships at the Vic Tanny health clubs.
“I was a great at closing the sale because I wasn’t afraid to go in for the kill.”
Larry’s theatrical career began with his admittance to the celebrated High School for Performing Arts, a.k.a. The “FAME” school. (Wanting to be a lawyer, he’d auditioned only as a favor to a teacher who insisted the junior high be represented. He was promised that he wouldn’t have a prayer.)
Still, when Larry got in, he got serious, so serious, in fact, that he had to transfer out; students weren’t allowed to take paid gigs and Larry wanted on-the-job experience. (As an aside: at Forest Hills High School, he sang doo-wop on the street corner with Paul Simon.)
Larry’s first break nearly came during auditions for “West Side Story,” when the show’s composer, Leonard Bernstein, lobbied for Larry to get a part. “Here I am on stage,” says Larry, “and Lenny is having this heated debate with Jerry (Jerome Robbins, the choreographer) about me. Lenny says, ‘This kid can hit the back of the theatre with his voice.’ The other kids couldn’t. So Jerry looks at me and says, ‘Do a triple tour jeté to the knee.’ I tried it and fell on my face.”
His audition for the role as the Crown Prince in the “King and I” national touring production went better. Once the role was proffered, “I told them I wanted twice as much money as Sal Mineo made when he did it on Broadway. My agent thought I was crazy.”
“What made you do that?” I asked.
For the next two years, Larry took his teenage chutzpah on the road, making a memorable mark wearing his pet capuchin monkey, Coco Sebastian Thelonious Monk, on his shoulder during performances.
A stint in Hollywood followed—Betty White, a fellow cast member urged him to make the move—and Larry took on whatever came along, including roles on TV’s “Roaring 20s” and “The Twilight Zone.” Retiring at 21 to get off the “feast or famine” merry-go-round, Larry moved back to New York where he eventually morphed into a bi-coastal corporate matchmaker.
His executive recruiting formula proved so successful that he decided to “recruit” his mate.” Placing ads in New York and L.A. magazines headlined, “The Little Prince is Seeking His Princess Bride,” (a reference to his role in “The King and I”) he interviewed about 200 women.
While there was nary a winner among them, one woman, 20 years Larry’s junior, thought he’d be perfect for her boss. That’s where Joy came in. Larry not only had found love, he’d met his equal in business and a cohort in Chutzpah. At the time, Joy was a fundraising executive for Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, producing live broadcasts for the Children’s Miracle Network.
“I convinced the ABC affiliate in L.A. to give me eight hours of air in prime time,” she says. Then, she got Disneyland to provide the venue. Joy had pulled off one of her most successful, and personally satisfying, events years earlier as a fundraiser for Valley Children’s Hospital in Fresno, Calif. by “tweaking” the American Dream Home concept.
“I didn’t just want to give away a house,” says Joy. “That had been done.” So besides finding a builder to provide a house, she solicited donations for everything else, from gasoline to clothing to property taxes. “The idea was that they wouldn’t have to open up their wallets for an entire year.
Selling raffle tickets for $5 apiece, the promotion, culminating in a live TV broadcast, raised $300,000. “It was killer,” says Joy. It was so successful that Joy is determined to pull off a similar promotion locally. She’s alrea” dy identified the beneficiary: Hearts with a Mission, a homeless shelter for teenagers, and she’s won over the local TV stations. “Now,” says Joy, “all we need is the house.”