You Gotta Have a Gimmick

gypsyI was asked to look at a couple of portfolios this week of artists who might be considered for shows in our gallery. I was impressed with one young man’s work in that it had a very unique style. It reminded me of an incident I had almost forgotten…

As a young man in New York I had the good fortune to be able to create artwork for some of the costumes used in the acclaimed revival of Gypsy starring Tyne Daly. One of the best things about that experience was all the free tickets and having the chance to see it multiple times. The “You Gotta Get a Gimmick” number stopped the show with every performance. I remember one night backstage during a rehearsal of that number, a savvy old theatre queen nudged me and pointed to the ladies singing that song and said “That’s good advice you know, listen to the words – they’re true.” I told him that I thought “you gotta get a gimmick” sounded kind of like a cheap way to go through life, but that I loved the song. He shook his head and said “No No No you’re looking at it all wrong. Having a gimmick just means being original, not being like the rest of the herd. You’ll get what I mean one day.”

I have thought about that conversation many times over the years and of course he was right. Successful people have all got a gimmick: for an artist, it might be cubism or a blue dog; for a singer, it can be the uniqueness of their voice; a great teacher has their own special rapport with their students; every memorable dancer articulates their body in a way that is their own. Even the guy who helps me with my roses has a special touch. And again the old queen was right. There is nothing cheap about putting yourself out there, making your work reflect who you are… no matter what kind of job you have. What’s your gimmick?

Video of the production I worked on is not to be found free on the internet so I’ll just show you the one from the original movie version. It always makes me smile.

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