Business & Professional
In The Stars
Special to the Jewish News
ike Gold of West Bloomfield
isn't much of a celebrity. He's
not an actor, singer or competi-
tive athlete — although he's tall, tan and
handsome and could probably pass for one.
Instead, the 44-year-old Jewish busi-
nessman has a starring role of a different
kind. Gold is the president of Celebrity
Placement Services in Farmington Hills.
From a small office on West 13 Mile Road,
he is immersed in the world of entertain-
ers and current and retired sports figures,
coordinating the use of celebrity talent
throughout North America — with close
to 7,000 celebrity placements since 1988.
Gold launched Celebrity Placement
Services by placing one or two celebrities a
month locally. Now his clients include large
corporations, department stores, shopping
malls, casinos, colleges, amusement parks,
car dealerships, even zoos and supermarkets.
He and four assistants place 50 to 60 month-
ly and achieve a profit of $5 million a year.
The celebrities run the gamut of sports
stars and people in entertainment, from
baseball home run record-holder Hank
Aaron to Red Wing hockey favorite Steve
Yzerman; from pro basketball great Kareem
Abdul-Jabbar to race car legend A.J. Foyt;
from the stars of television's American Idol,
Desperate Housewives and The Sopranos
to the current personalities on TV's soap
operas; from the stars of old-time sitcoms
to TV talk show hosts Regis Philbin and
Kelly Ripa; from game show emcees to car-
toon characters and impersonators.
Gold, a Southfield native, has always
been a big sports fan, following the local
sports teams and playing recreational
athletics as he graduated from Southfield
High School and attended the University
of Houston for two years. "But I wanted to
live in Michigan, so I returned and got a
job here selling shoes for a sports equip-
ment manufacturer:' he said. "Somehow, I
met Dennis Rodman, the Detroit Pistons
star at that time, and we really hit it off.
"We were walking in Birmingham and
a restaurant owner saw us through the
window and invited us in for a meal. A
clothes shop owner gave Rodman some
free clothes. People all around the Detroit
area were willing to do anything to hob-
nob with a celebrity.
"When Dennis and I realized how popu-
lar he was, we thought we might as well
arrange for him to get paid for his appear-
ances. Then we held basketball camps
during the off season, with him and other
Sta f f p hoto by Ang ie Baan
A chance meeting with Dennis Rodman leads to a big-time placement career.
Mike Gold has carved out a niche in the world of celebrities.
The Rodman experience (Gold hasn't spo-
ken with him since Rodman left the NBA)
provided Gold with valuable word-of-mouth
publicity. This led to the booking of even big-
ger names in the sports celebrity world, such
as Yzerman, the Red Wings' Gordie Howe
and Bobby Hull, Lions great Barry Sanders,
boxers Tommy Hearns and Joe Frazier,
Super Bowl MVP Peyton Manning, former
basketball wizard Julius Irving, current NBA
star Ben Wallace, and even baseball Hall of
Famer Joe DiMaggio just before he died.
"It's fascinating to watch the people
standing in line at autograph signings': said
Gold. "Most are very emotional, and some
are weeping or trembling nervously at the
prospect of meeting their sports idols.
"Sanders is sort of shy and quiet and
prefers to do private signings that we book
for companies and others. Many big-name
athletes sit in a hotel room for a few hours,
without a fan audience; and just sign balls,
bats, pucks and jerseys. That produces mer-
chandise for most of the stores, stadiums
and silent auctions at charity events:'
Gold has learned not to get enamored
with celebrities. A great fan of Larry Bird,
formerly of the Boston Celtics and now
Indiana Pacers general manager, Gold was
excited to get a private signing with him.
"But he acted like a jerk:' Gold recalls ."He
criticized everything and hardly said any-
thing to anyone. My respect and admiration
for him really plunged. I learned from that
episode that this is just a business and not
to get personally involved; not to go ga-ga
over my old sports idols."
Gold rates hockey players as the nicest
athletes and the most agreeable, and labels
golfer Tiger Woods, who is probably the
richest sports figure in the world, as the
worst tipper, based on feedback from golf
club personnel and others in the game. He
praises former Piston Isiah Thomas and
Jewish swimmer Mark Spitz, but won't han-
dle controversial figures like ex-cons Denny
McLain and Mike Tyson.
"In general, the retired players are grate-
ful to be making some extra cash now
because they missed out on the big incomes
of the current athletes': Gold said.
In the entertainment business, the retired
stars also are often more grateful and pleas-
ant — and sometimes even more popular
— than stars of the current programs.
Gold cites Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley,
Gilligan's Island, The Jeffersons, Let's Make
a Deal, the Newlywed Game and others. "I
could book old-time emcee Monty Hall in
many places, but he doesn't want to do it
"Adam West, the TV Batman, always
calls me for work. Lindsay Wagner (Bionic
Woman), soap opera star Susan Lucci
and Regis Philbin are the nicest of them
all. Regis puts on a really wonderful show
— always with a 22-piece orchestra. Justin
Guarini, a singer who lost on American Idol,
is still very popular."
Getting The Edge
It's all strictly business with Gold. The venue
always pays the appearance fee, but he
declined for competitive reasons to reveal the
fee or percentage split. About a dozen other
firms nationwide place celebrities. Gold feels
he has the edge because "I strive to maintain
a squeaky clean reputation': he said.
"Some companies might rip off the celebs
on part of their fees, forge autographs, try
anything to get business. But we're always
on the up and up. We serve as a consultant,
negotiate the talent fee and manage the
entire contract process:'
Jewish actor Don Diamont, who has been
playing "Brad Carlton" for 20 years on The
Young and the Restless, one of TV's high-
est-rated soap operas, said, "I make about
five appearances a year for Mike and he's a
total pro. All the celebrities are treated in a
very professional manner, and there are no
A New York native, Diamont, in his 40s
and with six sons, uses his mother's maiden
name instead of the Feinberg family name.
He went to California to become a model
and got acting roles after a producer noticed
Diamont will join nine other soap opera
stars in a first-ever "soap cruise" to the west-
ern Caribbean Nov. 15-19 on the Carnival
line's Imagination ship. The tour was
arranged by Celebrity Placement Services.
"We get revenue by committing to sell
500 cabins, mostly through advertising and
word-of-mouth' said Gold. "We'll have soap
trivia games, parties and other interaction
with the stars. Celebrity cruises are good for
business, and soap star cruises will be espe-
cially great for attracting female customers.
The cruise line loves it because many of the
people are first-time cruisers."
Gold says the biggest challenge in the
business is arranging travel for the per-
sonalities."We take care of complete travel
coordination and scheduling, so we must do
everything possible to make sure they get
to the venue on time; flight delays can really
mess up the schedule," he said.
The cruise bookings can get tricky
because celebrities may perform in one or
two shows on one cruise, then get off on an
island, fly to another island to catch another
ship for more shows. They often are criss-
crossing all over the Caribbean. The firm
uses travel agent Sandie Slusher of Travel
Plus in Commerce to handle the celebs.
"The staff and I do some traveling, but we
really can conduct this business by phone
and computer, contacting the venues and
celebs directly,' said Gold. "I'd much rather
stay home with the family."
Gold's office is a sports fan's delight, filled
with autographed photos, jerseys, baseballs
and pucks. "But I have even more at home
he said, "probably a million dollars worth of
Gold and his wife, Dr. Linsey Gold, a
breast cancer surgeon, have one child
with one more on the way. They belong to
Congregation Shaarey Zedek in Oakland