Marco Island has always been home to an eclectic group of residents. Celebrities, CEO’s, political figures, philanthropists, heck, even astronauts have resided here. Often, it seems, these acclaimed islanders go unrecognized amongst the general population. We know them as our neighbors, our tennis partners, and the people who stand next to us in line at the grocery store. During the next few months, the Coastal Breeze News will showcase these extraordinary individuals for our newest series titled, Interesting Islanders.
Most people, celebrity or not, move to our small city for the warmth, the sand, and the indelible quiet. Such was the case for our first interesting islander, Charlie Blum.
“There were times when I was down here when I get up in the morning, I thought that I had died,” he said. “My eyes opened up and I thought I was in heaven because it’s almost always a gorgeous sunny day here in paradise.”
In his other life, Blum was a major concert promoter, theater executive, talent buyer, artist manager, and television producer. Think of a celebrity, any celebrity, and I can almost guarantee he’s met them.
During his 40-year tenure in the entertainment business, Blum has worked alongside big names such as Michael Jackson, Frank Sinatra, Christina Aguilera, Tom Petty, Frankie Valli, Liberace, Liza Minelli, Dolly Parton, Jay Leno, and Jerry Seinfeld.
As you’d imagine, Blum is chock full of interesting stories, like that time he babysat Joan Rivers’ daughter, Melissa, while Joan stayed at an after show party. Once he took Michael Jackson and his entire family on a VIP tour of the White House while Ronald Reagan was president. He accompanied Frankie Valli as his guest in London to watch “Jersey Boys,” which is based on Valli’s life story. Blum has promoted many of Frankie Valli’s dates throughout the country including, his 2016 appearance in Fort Myers.
What is perhaps most interesting about Blum’s illustrious career, is that he came to it by chance. It all started when he was just a 19-year-old kid studying government and political science at American University in Washington, D.C. He, like many 19-year-olds, was looking for a summer job.
“As a political science major, I thought I would become president of the United States,” he joked. “But show business was my true passion.”
The Shady Grove Music Theater was a major concert facility in the suburbs of D.C. Blum, who’d always enjoyed entertainment, decided to stop by and apply for an usher position.
“I went out there to apply for a job as an usher, they didn’t need one,” Blum said. “But they needed an assistant to the publicist.”
The theater manager asked Blum to write a mock press release as a test. Blum admits at the time, he didn’t even know what a press release was. So he went to the library and did a little research. He came back with a near-perfect release for the nationally tour for the Broadway musical “Grease,” which was opening the Shady Grove season. He was hired.
According to Blum, back in the pre-internet days, the role of a publicist was a little different than it is today. Back then publicists were in charge of taking the artist to different local radio and television stations as well as newspapers in order to garner interest for their upcoming shows at the theater.
“That was really exciting because you spent social time with the performers since they were in town for a week or so,” he said. “You got to know them.”
At age 21, Blum was promoted to manager. At 22, Billboard Magazine named him as the youngest theater manager in the country. The following year, Blum became the associate producer on the Broadway show, “The Effect Of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds,” which starred Shelly Winters.
From there, Blum’s career began snowballing. Over the years he climbed the corporate ladder and eventually was hired as the vice president for the Nederlander Organization, a major presenter of Broadway shows and other national entertainment. He then worked as the president/CEO and talent buyer for Chicagoland’s Star Plaza Theatre, a position he held for over 28 years.
“I started as a publicist and then just moved up there to the national vice president of marketing, advertising, and promotion,” he said.
In addition to running major theaters and presenting concerts across the country, Blum has produced national television programs for PBS and managed the four stars of the Broadway musical “Jersey Boys.” Most recently he created and served as the co-executive producer for the PBS program, “Harmonies 4 Healing.”
Today Blum is semi-retired. He, with his endless energy and charisma, can’t seem to let go. He loves the business too much. Currently, Blum is producing a road tour of the beloved 90s Nickelodeon game show “Double Dare” starring his good friend Marc Summers.
“I’ve been very, very fortunate,” Blum said. I’ve enjoyed it. It has been a passion—it still is obviously. It’s exciting and I’ve been blessed in that I’ve been able to sustain and be quite successful in a career in the entertainment business.”