A career in entertainment is now always an option that’s viable, especially when you’re lacking in tools, training, or connections. This is why you always have to make sure you’re presenting yourself at the top of your game. Erin Saxton is back in the studio with Patrick Riley. Patrick is a freelance field producer and the author of That’s What Friends Are For. They reminisce about past celebrity dealings in their line of business, and discuss how it is possible to “do it all” in show biz.
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Erin Calls Out Justin Timberlake And Patrick Calls Out A Nugget Of Truth
I am joined by one of my special friends. He’s been on the show before. His name is Patrick Riley. He is a pop culture expert. He’s the author of That’s What Friends Are For. He is also a talk show host of the video TV show called The Happy Hour Talk Show. Patrick, welcome back.
It’s good to be back, Erin.
Have I lost weight since you have seen me the last time?
You look not only slimmer but this fashion, this green is sparkling.
It’s all about the green chair, who’s sitting in the green chair?
I said the last time, “I’m so happy. Mama, I made it. I’m in the green chair.”
Sometimes, I like to look and dress like I am the whole chair.
I’m happy that we’re not doing the weather.
Patrick’s a TV producer and so am I. We had an Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall inside joke.
Explain the green screen.
When you do the weather, there is a green screen and the weatherman is pointing, but he’s pointing to this shirt. It’s like a cloth.
The map would be all over there.
It’s the graphics that come up. The guy is not seeing the beltway or the storm front coming in. He’s literally pointing and doing things on a green screen.
Estimating his point while he looks at it on the monitor looking at the full effect.In live segments, you don't have the chance to tape a moment again. Click To Tweet
He thinks he’s at Michigan, but he got too much to drink, he’s down in Texas.
They don’t always get it right. If you watch closely, it’s an estimate.
I wonder if people don’t know that.
I don’t know. I think some people know, but it’s a cute shtick.
I think what we should do for the theme of this talk is talk about what people think they know and they don’t. We’re going to enlighten them.
Let’s dish about celebrities. I live in this town, Wyckoff, New Jersey. The Jonas Brothers are from this town.
I love the Jonas Brothers and from over where they are now, I had the chance to interview Kevin Jonas on the possibility of a reunion that is happening.
The reunion with his brothers that he sees every Christmas.
Now, they’re seeing each other a little more often. In the case of Kevin, we got to talk about him as a new father. He and Danielle had one kid, for sure. They are all adorable. What was great is having worked with them early on, interviews and things like that, when they were the hot teens that they were. They have evolved into great young men. I’m happy that they’ve got the song of the summer of 2019 and they’ve got a lot of things going on.
I do like that song. It was catchy.
It was cute. It is called Sucker.
Like that Destiny’s Child with Beyoncé and the Beatles, there’s always this one or two that seem to emerge like in NSYNC, poor Lance.
In the case of him, he’s found his niche.
I want to talk about that because I’m not knocking it. Obviously, even Lance wakes up in the morning and realizes he’s not JT.
It’s a lot of responsibility being JT.
Can I tell you a JT story?
Talk about it.
I’m at The View and I’m producing them. JT was dating Britney Spears at the time. They were rumored to have a fight. I didn’t think this was going to affect real-time. Apparently, they’re all talking about it and Lance is like, “You’re mad because Britney didn’t call you back.” This is in the green room. JT has a spray bottle because of his afro and he needs it. He’s spraying the whole world and there was mist everywhere. I’m walking in and he continues spraying. He thinks he’s being funny and he starts spraying me.
How did you take that?
I said, “You better get me out of these wet clothes.” I didn’t say that, but that would have been awesome.
That would’ve been good to say, but pre and post #MeToo. I don’t know who would be offending who at that point.
I am not sure, but it’s okay because I didn’t say it. It’s like Mama was not having any of their tomfooleries, with Lance laying on the couch and all the other people. I don’t even remember their names. Good for you, Lance, because I remember your name.
Would you do me this favor? Since it didn’t happen, would you include it in the script? At least you have to put it in a script. That’s a good line.
I come up with many stuff after the fact, a rearview mirror conversationalist, I am. Here’s what I would have said. I am a Monday morning talker.
I get it and in our business, depending on how you’re doing it, we do live sometimes. In live, you don’t have the chance, but sometimes you can tape it again and get it right and get it perfect and at this moment, it was real life.
He was spraying me and I thought, “Some girls would like this, me, not so much.”Humans are all sensitive, emotional beings - but feelings are overrated. Click To Tweet
Have you seen him since?
No, I think he and I need to talk about that. Clearly, there’s a healing that needs to happen.
It looks like JT needs to come to the green chair.
I will take a bucket and spritz it.
I will be a good episode.
I felt bad because at the time, Britney was more popular than JT but karma is a b****.
Things come around, but I think if there’s a symbol of what Britney is to the culture, beyond her music and mental health, she’s helped us take a closer look at it, beyond the scandal of it all. It’s something that is becoming more prevalent in society. People who have concerns that need to be addressed and treated. She was one of the first in the pop culture where we were on the ride with her a little bit.
A lot of times, with us being in the media and not to go political, but of all the fake news, there’s always a nugget of truth to everything.
Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.
It’s more than the nugget. It’s how you spin it. When you’re a celebrity, the celebrities that you know, they know when their time’s almost up. Do they then develop furniture lines or products out of Target?
They do that sooner than later these days.
They should. I don’t like to say ‘should’ too often, but if you’re a celebrity, the moment you become like, “I’m already working on my line at Target and no one knows who I am yet.”
You want to have it in the queue and ready to go. As independent creatives, we’re on another level than JT and the New Kids on the Block, but it’s important for all of us to look at our multiple streams of income or passion. We can be passionate about more than one thing. When I came into the business, I said, “Choose, be a producer or be a talent.” I continue to always do it all in a respectful way. I always attracted great clients, the likes of Oprah, Wendy Williams, NBC and BET, but I always gave myself that freedom to be it all. I never made a choice. When The Oprah Winfrey Show wrapped for example, a lot of my peers were trying to figure out how to do it and I’ve been doing it. I was a little ahead of the curve, so much that I’ve got my book ready and things in place.
That’s a good lesson for kids out there because the subject of the major of communications in school is truly the route you’d have to go with a concentration of broadcasting. Other than that, that’s it.
The rest is on you. You need great internships, great connections, buildings and relationships and then an outward focus because often, we’re like, “What can you do for me? What did that job do for me? What did that organization do for me?” It’s a give and take. Who I’ve been in this business, as much as I have been ambitious about reaching my goals, I am the help. I’m the one who people can come to and I’m not going to give you extra stress to give you the access that you may want to have a Savannah homegirl who wanted to go to Black Girls Rock, which filmed at NJPAC. I thought to myself normally, I’m at Arizona BET. I have somebody on the inside that I can send her to and then they’ll let me know who to go to. I’m not on a project with them, I’m like, “I don’t know who to go to.” I know the founder of Black Girls Rock, Beverly Bond. I made it happen, but it’s one of those things. My point it’s like, “I could have easily said, ‘I don’t know anyone. I’m onto the next, I helped her out.’” She came, my Homegirl from Savannah had the best time and how she celebrated me for doing this thing, I would have done for anyone because I’m wired that way. It felt right.
I pay it forward a lot. I don’t normally say I’m proud of anybody because I feel like that sounds condescending, except my son. I feel like when you have a family member who’s younger, that you’ve brought up, you can say that. The people that I have helped get internships and they’ve gone on to be, I can’t help but be proud.
They will be hiring us, at some point, if they choose.
When do you stop paying it forward? Here’s what kills me, you pay it forward and then you need something and then there’s no one to help you.
It comes from somewhere else. It doesn’t come from the same people that you helped. Not even in the same spirit or in the same season.
That made me sad.
It is a sad thing, which is why you made the point of when you do it, you do it. I tell the young people to do it immediately. The internship I got as a junior at Morehouse, I’m going to make sure that a sophomore behind me gets it next year and it’s that kind of thing. As soon as I graduated from college, it was about getting my job, but it was also making sure that the person behind me could get that other job that I left because I’m onto the next. When I left Atlanta for New York, I made sure someone got in Atlanta, the position I was vacating.
To tie it all together, here’s where I’m going with these people. When you’re in a band or a group or even a movie set and you’re the supporting actress or even if you’re the leading star, but it was the supporting actress’ time. What do you do from a marketing perspective to brand yourself, to make your mark and make the most of what you’ve had? You’re speaking of Kevin. Kevin found love, Kevin found a family and now they’re doing a reunion and things like that. Lance moved on to do something awesome as well.
Kevin for example, at that time, was not with the brothers. He was not touring with the brothers, so it’s utilizing the platforms to still have your brand be spoken. Even if it’s your brand on pause, even if it’s your “what’s new.” The playing field has been leveled for us all. We can get all of our messages out there. I’m on a book tour while I talk about The Happy Hour Talk Show, while I talk about maybe my next gig.
It’s almost parallel universes of living. I want to share this because we do our job publicly. Everybody sees when we have a great day at work. Everyone sees when we have a bad day at work. There are people that could be working on their brands. I speak at a lot of conferences and people have their day jobs, but they have their dream jobs. They tend to want to quit their day job. Trust me, I get it. We all do want to quit that.
We all maybe have done it a time or two.People want to hear all about the stuff they're watching every day. Click To Tweet
Then you fail or you don’t. I’m not saying stay stuck or stay in an abusive professional relationship, but there is one thing to be said for getting the steady paycheck and working your magic underneath in the wee hours and then all of a sudden, it is magic and day job and then this finally goes away. That’s how you do it. A lot of people are like, “Should I stop?” When I left The View and I started a PR company called The Idea Network and I ran it for a long time and I sold it, long story short. In that new entity, we were consulting somebody and he said, “I saved up money. I’m going to stop and I’m going to become a speaker.” He was making millions of dollars a year. I said, “What are you going to speak on?” He’s like, “I’ll figure it out.” I’m like, “You’re going to give up whatever to talk on a stage that you don’t even know what you’re going to be saying, which means you don’t know your audience and you don’t know your message. You don’t know your takeaway and I mentioned an upsell opportunity so you can make revenue from this.”
All of that you’re describing is managing. Whatever the scenario is if a person has a job that is lucrative but they want to do something else, it’s about managing all of that together. I always say that we’re all emotional, sensitive beings, but feelings are highly overrated. Feelings sometimes will make us quit that job when we don’t have the messaging ready for this career and speaking that we want to do. Feelings can make you when you’re getting your book done with this new publisher that could and you’re frustrated at what it’s taking. You’re in a position where you could maybe walk away from the opportunity, but you swallow your feelings and you stay the course to see yourself to the goal, to get to the upsell.
I already have a book that will go with me wherever I go to be able to attract budgeted bookings as a speaker. I know to whom I’m speaking and to what I’m speaking and what I’m talking about. It took my patience with myself, but it also took me managing. As a freelancer, those day jobs are about what you’re doing for the client. You’re delivering the deadlines for the client, but as tired as I may be at the end of that day, I’m going to take a few hours for me. It doesn’t matter if I’m losing a little sleep on it. I’ll get some coffee in the morning, maybe with a double espresso on top of it, but I want in those moments to make sure that I’m managing me. I’ve spent a lot of time looking for a manager. I have not been able to find someone who can manage me as well as I manage myself.
I think I know people for you.
As my upsell goes, but in the meantime, I’m managing it all. That is what people forget. They think that they have to give up something to be able to have the room to get on to the next, but you can manage it. You’ll be okay.
I also don’t think people understand what goes into being a celebrity. I don’t mean I’m a celebrity, but even to put together this TV show or your TV show or your book, I don’t know if people realize the struggle is real.
It’s real and it’s a daily struggle.
It is an amazingly difficult struggle and stressful. Me for example, I have a bunch of clients. I’m a mom.
You have this show called That Girl From Jersey.
I think that sometimes, people wake up, read a magazine and think as it happened. They watch a TV show or a talk show and that particular show, not to mention a motion picture, which takes years to put on. Don’t even get me started on The Lion King.
How about our peers? I’m sure you have someone who is built as you were built, with a similar background, but you’re doing this and they’re saying, “I want to get my show. What am I going to do?” They don’t know you’ve taken steps to get to this point. You’ve got more steps in place to get to it. The same thing with the book. People say, “I see you have a new book. How can I get into that?” I’m like, “Firstly, can you buy my book, as a measure of support? After that, maybe you could host a book signing and then could we then give you all my contacts about publishing?”
They don’t know.
They think that it just happened to me. It didn’t just happen.
They’ll come up and say, “You should interview me for your show.” I am like, “I get it and I think you’re lovely and I probably will. I can and if I think you’re cool, I will but it doesn’t happen that fast.” There’s some thought behind it.
Be a little more clever in how you sell yourself. Make it like, “Where’s the chase? Can you get in on the chase?”
I am from New Jersey. I need a little challenge. Also you’re saying that to me, but I have no idea who you are and what you do. I am not attracted to you.
You’re burying the lead. Not everybody knows about that elevator pitch. It’s like what’s the time that it takes you to get from floor 30 to 1, you should be able to sell yourself, your project or anything else.
Here is a good segue, know your audience. If you’re in an elevator and you have three people around you and they say, “What do you do?” Walk everybody through because I’m positive. You do a quick read because you can’t look at all that you’ve done. What do you choose? How do you figure out what you’re going to say?
My line is when they say, “What do you do?” “I’m an independent producer personality and writer, who’s a published author with a great new book, more of the party entertainment diary, That’s What Friends Are For: On The Women Who Inspired Me, truly a celebration of the women in pop culture in our times.” That’s my shtick, a variation. If I’m talking to a black woman, I might go into the black women and go, “Oh.” If it’s a white woman, I will say, “All women who we have all appreciated in society, this book is giving them a chance to be celebrated.” That might make someone say, “I know Janet. I know Tracy. I know Halle Berry.” It’s like that.
For black women though, do they feel like they need to have someone that acknowledges their accomplishments? As a white woman, I wouldn’t be able to say that in an elevator.
You wouldn’t say that. You would have another shtick.
I would be able to say, “I have a book about white women who I feel is everyone, not you, meaning black men.” People would kill me. Let’s be honest.
They are arriving in this stage word in this era of white supremacy acceptance, but that is not the point. They might say, “Where’s that book?”
I love the show, Claws, and there’s an episode where he thinks that he’s met an amazing book publisher. I forget the book title, I should know it for this. They said, “We’re going to get you on a speaking tour.” All of a sudden, they’re in Palmetto, Florida. They’re doing a book tour and they’re devouring, “You can do it.” All of a sudden, there’s a white supremist in the audience and they’re the only white people in their group of friends. Everyone else is black and Asian and everybody else. No one else looks like them. This is not the poster child for white supremacy whatsoever and yet, he inadvertently signed on with a white supremacist book author. My point is it’s cool that you can say if I was speaking to black women, I can say, “There’s Diana Ross.” For me as a white woman, I don’t look at it like that.
How do you look at, “This is a celebration of black women?” What do you see it as to the culture?
For me, I feel like I am black.
I receive you.
I also think I’m Asian. I feel like I’m a chameleon sometimes, whoever I’m talking to.
You can get into the subject.
To the point where I’m not even sure who I am because I want badly to relate to who I’m speaking to that, I’ll channel how they need to hear what I need to say. Clearly, I’m not going to go up to a Black Panther rally, though I would want to, how fun would that be?
What works for me is that I know that I have an audience of black enthusiasts, who appreciate the pop I bring to the narrative. That’s one tier that I would assess in my pitch. I have LGBTQ youth as a targeted demographic. They may not know to look for me, but I seek them out so that they know that there’s inspiration here. It gets better because it got better for me. I know that’s another direction I can take. I also know that because we’re in the business, people want to hear career tales of success. This very much is like that. I go through the good, the bad and the ugly of what it’s taken me to get through the business. Working for Oprah for many years, when you have an idea of who you are as a brand is tricky because you’re working for Oprah. It’s not Oprah and the Supremes, it’s Oprah. The blessing of being able to work in an operation like that, but still being able to maintain me in the equation, that’s a unique gift. I have a lot of people in the industry who appreciate this story from that angle.
I love it all. If I were to give any advice being who I am or at least who I appear in an elevator, is that you never know what they’re coming with on that little journey of yours. Intuitively, I listen to my gut and she’s never let me down. She’s a good girl.
The publisher asked me something I thought reductive. They wanted me to do with a chapter on reality. I’m like, “I’m not inspired by anything in reality,” but I appraised my assets, the women in the reality sphere. There’s a lot to learn from reality. I even produced a little reality. Monica’s reality show for BET in 2009, as well as Kesha Kohl’s reality show. These were big hits with BET. It’s funny when I go into rooms for symposiums, I’m thinking I’m going to be talking about Oprah and Whitney and Diana. They want to talk about Nini and the Real Housewives of Atlanta. Truth be told, I’ve been in the business long enough and I’ve been enough of a pop culture analyst. I can talk about them too. I learned that sometimes people don’t want to hear about the highbrow stuff. They want to hear about the stuff that they’re watching every day.
The lesson here for everyone who wants to learn a lesson as far as to people who’ve been through it all, they don’t make an assumption that what these people are looking for. Come with an arsenal of diversity even with your explanation as to who you are and what you do. You could say, “This is for black women who have inspired me.” You’re assuming that, “There are black women, so they’re going to love Diana or Oprah.”
It is not necessarily.
There’s an era of being careful not to make those assumptions. I think that would go for any genre of groups and stuff that you’re talking about.
You have to find what is the connector and how quickly you can communicate that and make sure you have the variances available because you might need to use them.
Before we head out, let’s manifest something. Of all the people you’ve worked with, who is still on your list that you need to connect with and work with or at least get to know? Let’s set that intention and put that out.
Who do I still need to meet? I feel pompous in saying that I’ve met everybody. It is a tough question, but let me think about it. I have met her. I even interviewed her at the Legends Ball, but what I would love to do more of is to get to know Michelle Obama.
Even I would. I think I should.
Maybe together, we can do lunch. That would be great. I’m clear for all of her availability to us as a society that she and I would have something special to share.
She will adore you because I adore you. What is good for me will essentially be great for Michelle Obama. Where can everyone find you?
Please find me on social media via Instagram, @Patrick.Riley. That will lead you to all the places and spaces in social media. You can see links and clips and things that I’m doing project to project because I am still a published author, a freelance producer and talent. I work for food. I work for hire. I work on projects.
How often does your show, The Happy Hour Talk Show, come out?
Once a month. That was good. We’ve got four down and four in the can. We’ll be doing some more taping because we do four in a day. I don’t know how many of these you tape, but we take several in one seating and we tape at Melba’s in Harlem. Anybody that’s in the New York area, look up at @Patrick.Riley and find out when we’re taping because you can come and be a part of our audience. You can watch what happens live.
I watched the show too. You’re all there and you’re also handsome and well-spoken.
In the background, we have a bonus bartender, sometimes a special guest. Sometimes they’re shirtless. It is a little kitsch for the people.
You’ve got to love naked men pouring drinks.
At The Happy Hour Talk Show.
Or in my kitchen. Patrick, thanks for joining us.
Thank you for tuning in. We’ll see you soon.
- Patrick Riley – previous episode
- That’s What Friends Are For
- The Happy Hour Talk Show
- @Patrick.Riley – Instagram
About Patrick Riley
Patrick L. Riley is best known for his work as a freelance, senior field producer at “The Oprah Winfrey Show” for over 13 years – including ABC network credits on “Oprah’s Legends Ball” and “Building a Dream: The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy”.
That opportunity provided moments for Patrick to interview Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton as well as many of his own idols – including Diana Ross, Mary Tyler Moore, Janet Jackson, Beyonce, Dr. Maya Angelou, and many more. Since OPRAH wrapped in 2011, other brands call on Patrick to consult as a producer – including The Oprah Winfrey Network, The Wendy Williams Show, Pickler & Ben, BET Creative Services, and NBCBLK. Patrick Executive Produced the 2015-16 “The More You Know” campaign for NBC Universal. Other on-camera clients include (or have included) TV-ONE’s “Life After”; COZI-TV; BET; The Advocate; Wells Fargo; and ARISE ENTERTAINMENT 360.
Riley books a number of speaking and hosting engagements – including return business with Prudential, Optum, Disney, and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Patrick sings as well. When in season, his popular open mic karaoke experience, All Star Karaoke, attracts an enthusiastic crowd. AirBnB named it the best way to experience karaoke in New York City. It includes giveaways from event sponsor, Miss Jessie’s, for which Patrick is a Brand Ambassador.
He has received a number of industry nods for his work, including the 2014 Momentum Education’s “Pillar of Empowerment” Award at Momentum Honors in New York City as well as several awards from the National, Atlanta, and New York Associations of Black Journalists, and others. In a rare turn, Patrick portrays “Rudy” in the independent film STEPS, his movie acting debut – Executive Produced by Shaquille O’Neal. STEPS has screened to extensive praise on the film festival circuit – including the Peachtree Village International, the Newark International, and the Urban World Film Festivals.
Patrick’s hardcover book, “That’s What Friends Are For: On the Women Who Inspired Me,” is published by Dorpie Books. NABJ deemed it “Outstanding Literary Work” as the NYC Pride organization awarded him its 2018 Trailblazer Award honor in Harlem at The Schomburg Center of Culture & Research.