Richard Skipper, Entertainer-Singer-Episode #295

May 14, 2024 | 0 comments

“This moment is all we have. Get outside of your comfort zone. Just get out there and do it. And it’s like the expression, how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. It’s not going to all happen overnight. It’s lucky when it does. But when it happens, you know that you’re prepared and you’re ready for it.”
~Richard Skipper

Richard Skipper is an entertainer, singer and host known for his award-winning tribute to Carol Channing, which was endorsed by Carol herself. He can be seen in the film, Carol Channing: Larger Than Life.

Richard’s appeared in legendary venues from Atlantic City’s Taj Mahal and Hilton to Carnegie Hall. And he’s shared stages with some of the biggest names in show business including Carol Channing and Lesley Ann Warren. And he’s appeared on the Windstar Cruise ship, Las Vegas to Windsor Ontario and all points in between.

Because of Covid, he created his popular virtual series, Richard Skipper Celebrates…with over 900 episodes under his belt.

In New York, his live events include: Richard Skipper Celebrates, featuring the biggest names in cabaret and theater.

Prior to Covid, Richard performed his highly acclaimed live talk/variety show at the Laurie Beechman Theatre. Directed originally by the late great Jay Rogers, Richard starred in The Magic of Believing (which was originally called From Conway to Broadway), as well as in the fully staged concert version of Hello, Dolly! at The Revision Theater in Asbury Park. Richard is an expert on the history of Hello, Dolly! and has done many talkbacks about it.

His most recent solo project is, Still Going Strong: Richard Skipper Celebrates 60 Years of Hello, Dolly! This current production was co-conceived by director James Beaman along with Musical Director Dan Pardo.

Among Richard’s achievements: He won the Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival Competition. He interviewed and helped to promote the release of the CD of a favorite StoryBeat guest, Julie Budd.  He’s been named Cabaret Scenes Magazine “Top of the Century Premiere Cabaret Acts,” and Cabaret Hotline’s “Top Ten Cabaret Performers.”  Richard has also won 4 MAC Awards and a Bistro Award.

Aside from teaching privately, Richard also presents master classes combining positivity and creativity.




Read the Podcast Transcript

Steve Cuden: On today’s StoryBeat: 

Richard Skipper: This moment is all we have. And that’s the message of Dolly. It only takes a moment. Get outside of your comfort zone. A lot of people talk about, I want to do this, I want to do this. Everything’s in the future tense when I retire, when I have enough money, do it. Just get out there and do it. And it’s like the expression, how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. It’s not going to all happen overnight. It’s lucky when it does. But when it happens, you know that you’re prepared and you’re ready for it. 

Announcer: This is StoryBeat with Steve Cuden. A podcast for the creative mind. StoryBeat explores how masters of creativity develop. And produce brilliant works that people everywhere love and admire. So join us as we discover how. Talented creators find success in the worlds of imagination and entertainment. Here now is your host, Steve Cuden. 

Steve Cuden: Thanks for joining us on StoryBeat. We’re coming to you from the Steel City, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. My guest today, Richard Skipper, is an entertainer, singer and host known for his award winning tribute to Carol Channing, which was endorsed by Carol herself. He can be seen in the film Carol Channing Larger than Life. Richards appeared in legendary venues from Atlantic City’s Taj Mahal in Hilton to Carnegie hall. And he shared stages with some of the biggest names in show business, including Carol Channing and Leslie Ann Warren. And he’s appeared on the Windstar cruise ship Las Vegas to Windsor, Ontario, and all points in between. Because of COVID he created his popular virtual series Richard Skipper celebrates. With over 900 episodes under his belt in New York, his live events include Richard Skipper celebrates, featuring the biggest names in cabaret and theater. Prior to COVID, Richard performed his highly acclaimed live talk variety show at the Laurie Beachman Theater. Directed originally by the late great Jay Rogers, Richard starred in the Magic of Believing, which was formerly called from Conway to Broadway, as well as in the fully staged concert version of hello Dolly at the Revision Theater in Asbury Park. Richard is an expert on the history of hello Dolly has done many talkbacks about it. His most recent solo project is Still Going Strong Richard Skipper Celebrate 60 Years of Hello Dolly. This current production was co conceived by director James Beamon along with musical director Dan Pardo. Among Richard’s achievements, he won the Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival competition. He interviewed and helped to promote the release of the CD of a favorite StoryBeat guest Julie Buddy. Hes been named one of Cabaret Scenes magazine top of the century premier cabaret acts and cabaret hotlines. Top ten cabaret performers, Richard has also won four Mac awards and a Bistro award. Aside from teaching privately, Richard also presents master classes combining positivity and creativity. So for all those reasons and many more, im truly delighted to welcome the multitalented, larger than life Richard Skipper to storyb today. Richard, welcome to the show. 

Richard Skipper: Steve, there’s nothing to talk about now. You just covered everything. Thank you. 

Steve Cuden: We’re all done. Good night. 

Richard Skipper: Good night. Thank you so much. And I want to say I’m, a fan of yours. I love the fact that you really talk about the process and how it all comes together. 

Steve Cuden: Well, that’s what fascinates me, so I’m glad to talk about it. I’ve been fascinated by process and creativity most of my life. So this, is a great joy for me when I get to talk to people like you about how they do what they do. So let’s go back in time a little bit. You’ve been at this performance game for relatively decent period of time, and I’m wondering, how old were you when the stage bug first bit you? 

Richard Skipper: Well, I’m a product of 1960s and seventies television. I’m 63 years old. I grew up at a time where the variety shows were on television, and you would see these great production numbers and everything, and I loved it. That was the world of show business that I wanted to be a part of. And true story. When I was 13 years old, I was reading the book the Magic of Believing by Claude Bristol. It, tells you the kind of kid I was. And in the book I was reading one day, I can give you the date. It was August 5, 1974. And I was reading the book, and I’ll tell you why. I know that date in a moment. But in the book, it said, set your mind on a goal like a homing pigeon, and go after it with dogged determination. And something happened to me at that moment as I read that sentence, and I read it over and over and over again, and I’m sitting holding this book, true story, and I’m literally shaking. And I closed the book, and I went in and I said to my mom and dad, five years from today, I’m going to New York. And on, August 5, 1979, with $500 in my pocket and my parents saying, we’ll see you in three weeks, I got on a plane, and I flew to New York. I grew up on a tobacco farm in South Carolina. And, you know, and I mentioned to you very briefly before we went live that my mother just recently passed away, and I was home and a very dear friend of mine, God bless her, Jennifer Roberts, who would be a great guest on your show, by the way. She came down to be by my side, which was wonderful. I mean, the gravesite, there’s an old tobacco barn. And I used to, and I took her around and I said, it’s now dilapidated and falling apart, but it’s still standing there. And I said, imagine me at, 13 years old on a tobacco farm in South Carolina, standing under that shed and performing Liza with a z. And of course, no one in my family knew what to make of me. They didn’t know. Who is this crazy person who believes that he’s going to go into show business? 

Steve Cuden: You were only missing Judy and Mickey. 

Richard Skipper: I was only missing Judy and Mickey. And I was a huge fan of them too. But in those days, we, of course, I don’t know how old you are, and I’m not asking, but I, you know, we didn’t have, DVD’s, we didn’t have, Vhs. We didn’t have any of those things. If you wanted to see these movies and these people that we just mentioned, you saw them on the late, late show. You saw them, when the shows would be shown once a year. If you missed a television spectacular, as they used to call them, that was it. You missed it once in a while, like in the case of Liza with a c. They would repeat it, you know, sometimes, but not always. And, so I would sneak up late at night to watch these people. In 1974, the, movie that’s entertainment came out and this nostalgia craze took over the world. And they were showing all of these stars from the MGM heyday of musicals and everything. And you would see, thank God a lot of them were still alive. You would see these artists on the late, late show or you would see them on talk shows and you would see them around. So again, as I was watching all of this, that was the world that I wanted to be a part of. 

Steve Cuden: Did you know then that you were a pretty good singer because you’ve got a beautiful voice? So I’m wondering, did you know then? 

Richard Skipper: No, no. As a matter of fact, when I went to my first audition at, mame, I was so awful. They actually said, don’t call us, we’ll call you. And this is one of the stories that I talk about, in my magic of believing show. I thought when they said, we’ll be in touch, that they really meant that they were going to call me. So one phone, no answering machine, no call waiting in those days, of course, I would not let my sister or my mom answer the telephone for almost two weeks. And then I found out they were having their first rehearsal, and I showed up at the theater thinking that they lost my number. Wow. And, of course, you can only imagine the look on the face of the director when he stepped out of the car and he saw me sitting, on the steps. And he said, ricky, as I was called in South Carolina, he said, ricky, what are you doing here? I said, did you lose my number? And he says, I’m sorry, but you didn’t get cast. And he said, however, since you’re here, if you just want to hang out and, you know, and be with us tonight on our first rehearsal, you’re welcome to stick around. So I’m sitting in the theater, and they’re passing out what they called sides, and those were specific to your character, and they’re handing out the sides. And there was a two line part of a messenger that comes in after one of mame’s big parties. Two lines. Sign here. Agnes Gooch says, my dear, I’ve been here for two weeks, and already there have been 13 cocktail parties, and the response is only 13. And someone said, why don’t we give Ricky this part? And that was how it began for me. 

Steve Cuden: Well, that was a very generous person that invited you in. 

Richard Skipper: Yes. Yeah. 

Steve Cuden: because not every director would do that, would they? 

Richard Skipper: That’s right. That’s right. So they gave me a chance, and when, you know, it was a couple of years before I came back and auditioned for them. And the next show that I auditioned for was the unsinkable Molly Brown. And when I auditioned and I got cast in the show, several weeks into rehearsal, I went to my director and, Linda Simmons, and I said, why did you cast me in this? I just want to know. And she said, anybody who would work that hard on those two lines in that other show, mame, deserves a chance. And she took a chance on me. 

Steve Cuden: So they saw something in you. 

Richard Skipper: They saw something in me. And from that point on, every show that I auditioned for with that theater company, I got cast. But it was getting that chance and also getting that confidence. I mean, I know you’re very focused on process, and a lot of times, you know, a friend of mine is going to be on American Idol, and they’re still going through the audition process. I can’t mention her name. I can’t mention anything, but I know she’s going to the next level. That’s all I know. And I sit and I watch this show, and I’ve never really gotten involved in watching the show or anything, but of course, I’m watching it to see my friend come up. And I every time these kids, for the most part, are told that they’re going to Hollywood and they’ve got that dream and they’ve got that ambition, I’m not ashamed to say I burst into tears, because to me, it’s just giving that person a chance and saying, we see something in you, and we think that you deserve a chance at this. And in this business, we deal with sound bites and people not always acknowledging people, and it takes very little effort to acknowledge every single person that’s in show business. 

Steve Cuden: One of the other things that happens in American Idol, though, which is the flip of that, and not to go negative on this, is there are a lot of people that are rejected, and you don’t see most of the rejections. And those people have to deal with that difficult moment when somebody says no, just like you were told no, but then invited in. That doesn’t happen every day. 

Richard Skipper: That doesn’t happen every day. And, you know, it’s funny, a couple of weeks ago, this guy comes in, he sings for them, and he was pitchy. He was all, you know, and he was having a lot of problems, and they all voted that he wasn’t going to go to Hollywood. And he leaves the room. And as they were talking, I think it was Lionel Richie who said, there’s something in him that I see, and I think we should give him another chance. And they said, well, he’s already left the room. He said, well, we can bring him back in. Let’s give him that chance. And, we’re in a business that’s all about possibilities. It’s also about rejection. on any given day, you need a tough skin to be in this business. 

Steve Cuden: No question. This is not a business for the faint of heart or weak of stomach. 

Richard Skipper: Well, Steve, you’ve interviewed some of the biggest names in show business on this show. And you know yourself, no matter who they are, they all have the same vulnerabilities, they all have the same desires. They’ve all. A lot of them started out the same way, but it’s perseverance, it’s belief in yourself. And again, we live in a, world, for whatever reason, that people want to put you on a pedestal. But as soon as you reach that level on that pedestal, there are some people out there who want to knock you right off the pedestal. 

Steve Cuden: Well, it’s interesting because the people who become famous are celebrities in the business frequently are associated with those parts that they get, and we don’t know them as the actual person. We know them as these characters that they’ve played. And when I first got to Hollywood, way back in the Pleistocene era, it was a long time for me when I was working with a number of different famous people, for me to wake up and go, these people still have to get up in the morning and put one leg through their pants at a time. And they otherwise seem to me to be invulnerable. But they are, in fact, quite vulnerable. 

Richard Skipper: Absolutely. And no one. No one, no one, no one. You read all the publicity that you want to read about someone, you don’t know what they’re going through. 

Steve Cuden: Absolutely not. Well, you don’t know what people are going through if they’re sitting across the table from you. 

Richard Skipper: That’s true. That’s absolutely true. 

Steve Cuden: So tell me, did you get laughs as a kid? Did you know you were kind of an entertaining type of person? 

Richard Skipper: That’s a good question. speak to anyone that I went to high school with. I used to duke lunchtime, concerts on the front steps of our high school, and I would come out and I would mimic every celebrity that I saw on television the night before, male and female. 

Steve Cuden: Like who? 

Richard Skipper: carol channing, carol O’Connor. Two carols there. Carol burnett, and, then, John Belushi, Gilda Radnor. I covered all bases. 

Steve Cuden: Wow. 

Richard Skipper: And I would go on the front steps of our high school, and I would do these lunchtime concerts, and it started where all the kids would come and they would just sit on the steps, and somebody would say, do Carol O’Connor or do you know Edith bunker or do this character? And I would mimic them. And I had these students eating out of the palm of my hand. Five years ago was my 40th class reunion. Okay. And I had not been to any of my class reunions before. And one of the things that I used to do, I used to do steam heat, but my version of steam heat was the pointer sisters that I had seen on the cal Burnett show with me playing all parts. So at my class reunion, everybody was like, please do steam heat tonight. 40 years later, that people that I went to high school with, they remembered. Yes. 

Steve Cuden: Well, that means you did something quite memorable back then, right? 

Richard Skipper: Right. 

Steve Cuden: You didn’t go to training, you didn’t go to school somewhere for what you do. You went off to New York to make your fortune. 

Richard Skipper: Right? I got my first acting job three weeks after being in New York. I went to HB studios on Bank Street. I unfortunately had a teacher who could not remember from one week to the next. The first week, he assigned me a scene partner, and he wanted us to do a scene. It was the Dutchman. And if you know anything about the Dutchman, it’s about an african american man and a jewish woman who meet on the subway. Now, which one of those characters do you think I’m right for? So I didn’t get either one. I mean, so he just wanted to see what we would do with a scene, that’s all. That’s the only reason he gave us this scene. So we did the scene. Then the next week, we came and he would sit there and he would stroke his mustache while we were doing the scene. And we finished the scene, and he said, I’d like to see you do another scene together. So then he gave us a taste of honey. So he came in the following week, we did the scene from a taste of honey as he’s sitting there stroking his mustache. And he said, have I seen the two of you work together before? And I said, last week? And he said, well, I’d like to see you do the following scene in a taste of honey, just to see the progression of your acting. So we came back the next week. We did the scene as he sat there and he stroked his mustache. And I said, if he doesn’t remember that we did this the last two weeks, I’m not going to be responsible for what I’m going to say. And sure enough, he’s there. He stroked his mustache. We finished the scene, and he stood up. He said, have I seen the two of you work together before? And I lost it. I was 18 years old, fresh off the turnip truck in South Carolina. And I said, wait a minute. I don’t know what your training is. I don’t know why you don’t remember from week to week. But when I walk into an audition, they don’t care whether they’ve seen me or not before. They are going to critique what I’m doing in that moment for sure. When I’m appearing on stage, even if people know me when they come in, they are expecting me to deliver the goods that night. It doesn’t matter what I’ve done in the past. It doesn’t matter what my history is. It doesn’t matter any of those things. What matters is that I’m going to be able to deliver to my audience what happens that night. And I don’t know how things are done here in New York. But if this is the way it is, I want no part of it. And I got up, and I walked out of the classroom. Wow. And I never went to another acting class again. 

Steve Cuden: And so that guy. No names need to be tossed here. No, but this was someone who was part of the industry. 

Richard Skipper: He knew he was part of the industry. And, you know, as it is with a lot of the teachers at HB, and I do not want to knock HB studios, because I’m sure that it was just the luck of the draw that I ended up in that classroom. But in this business, when kids come to a class, Stella Adler, one of the best acting teachers in the business, she was very tough on the students in her classroom, and there were certain students where she would say, get out. You’re not ready for this, right? But I did the work. I was ready to be molded by this. 

Steve Cuden: So then how did you then progress? How did you then learn? Just by doing. 

Richard Skipper: Just by doing. I used to get backstage, which was the trade paper in New York. It, came out every Thursday night shortly after midnight. And in those days, there were all night coffee shops. I would be waiting when those newspapers arrived at the news, and then I would go to the nearest coffee shop with a red marker, and I would go through every show that I felt that I could audition for. And I auditioned for everything. I mean, whether I was right for it or not, I auditioned for it. Just, to be seen, you know, just start building up a name for myself in the business, for the listeners. 

Steve Cuden: Who are paying attention. That is super smart, because just getting the experience of going to auditions, that you may think to yourself, I’m not right for this. But yet you go on the audition, you’re learning that process. 

Richard Skipper: But the thing is, most people in this business, all people in this business, you want the ultimate brass ring. You want to get cast, of course. You want to get the booking. You want to get whatever it is that you’re going to that audition for. But I learned a long time ago to enjoy the process. I was one of those crazy kids that love to audition. I love the people that I met at the auditions. I love talking. And this is another thing. Everyone’s on their smartphones nowadays. 

Steve Cuden: Yes. 

Richard Skipper: People are sitting, waiting, go into an audition. They’re on their smartphones, talking in those days, and I sound like, you know, methuselah. But in those days, we talk to each other. You know, I’d be sitting next to someone, and they say, have you heard about this audition that’s happening? at such and such a theater, you should go and audition, and I would get the information, and I, as soon as I finished my audition, I was in line at the other place. It was a full time thing to do that and having survival jobs and all of those things that one does, to survive in the city as well. But there was something about that time, you know, of being new in New York and, trying to etch out a career for yourself. 

Steve Cuden: You enjoyed the process of going to auditions. Did you ever feel nervous about them? 

Richard Skipper: Oh, yeah. I will tell you when I felt the most nervous, when it was something that I was just taking a chance on. If it was a part that I knew that I was absolutely perfect for, that made it a lot easier for me, because I’m going to go. I’m going to go in, and I’m going to show them what I can do, and either they’re going to say yes or they’re going to say no. I have no control over this. One of my favorite books, I’ll, recommend this to everyone, is the four agreements. And I don’t know if you know the four agreements. 

Steve Cuden: I do. 

Richard Skipper: But one of the four agreements is it’s not about you. 

Steve Cuden: Correct. 

Richard Skipper: And so when you go in and you’re auditioning for something, I have no control over, whether they had a fight with their spouse when they went in that morning or they had a bad breakfast or something’s pending that they’re thinking about, rather than being focused on me, all I can do is go in and do the best job that I can possibly do. 

Steve Cuden: And so what did you do psychologically when you didn’t book a gig? How did you look at it? 

Richard Skipper: I would go on to the next one. 

Steve Cuden: So I had the great good fortune to interview Bryan Cranston on this show, and he talked about that process of going through auditioning when he was a journeyman actor in his early years. And he said that he eventually got to a point where he understood it wasn’t his part, and so he moved on to the next one, just like you’re talking about. 

Richard Skipper: Absolutely. And then, you know, when I go out to get a booking or something, and it just happened to me last week, where a venue that I performed in last summer, they had no room for me on their schedule this summer. And I wrote to them and I said, thank you for the opportunity last year, I had a great time. If there’s a cancellation, put me at the top of that list. I’d love to come back. And in the meantime, I hope you have a great summer season, and that’s, you know, that’s all you can do. 

Steve Cuden: And what great attitude that is. And they know that. That’s great attitude. They appreciate that. 

Richard Skipper: And we’re all human beings. And I’m not going to say that I’m some saint or something, and I don’t have my moments, because I do. There are moments when I just feel, as Bryan Cranston says, brilliantly, and I’ve heard him say that before in other interviews, that, you know, you, you reach a point where you go, that’s not for me. And you have to realize, I’m not the only one. There are thousands. 

Steve Cuden: Oh, indeed. And only one person can book that part. 

Richard Skipper: That’s right. That’s right. 

Steve Cuden: Out of those thousands or hundreds or dozens that have auditioned, whatever the number is, only one’s going to get the part. 

Richard Skipper: So, Steve, I have two options. I can go into a funk and go, woe is me. Woe is me. Woe is me. Or I can go, okay, I got to move on. And in this business, while you’re thinking about it, somebody else is doing it. So when an opportunity passes in front of my eyes, like doing your show today, you grab those opportunities and you say, yes, I’m going to do this, and you move forward. 

Steve Cuden: I think that that’s really super wise advice, because, there are a lot of people that get hung up on the notion that they didn’t get the part or they didn’t. They really wanted it, really wanted it. And you just moved on as a professional to the next opportunity. And that’s what you’re looking at it as, I assume, as just another opportunity. 

Richard Skipper: Well, Carol Channing said that her father used to say to her, be careful what you wish for, because you will surely get it. And there’s a flip side of this. There have been jobs that I’ve gotten in the business that didn’t measure up to what I thought it was going to be. Uh-huh. Certain personalities that you just will rub you the wrong way or you’ll rub them the wrong way. so sometimes those things happen, and you just. Again, I just keep moving forward. That’s all I can do. 

Steve Cuden: Well, there’s no way to. Just like you said, you couldn’t control what’s going on in the people that are auditioning you. You can’t control their thinking. At the same time, you can’t control the chemistry of what you’ve been booked into. 

Richard Skipper: That’s right. That’s absolutely right. 

Steve Cuden: And that chemistry can be wonderful, or it can be just devastating, depending upon how they’ve put that group together. 

Richard Skipper: Well, it’s like family dynamics. Anything you go into a situation, look at the world that we’re living in right now. Everyone’s not going to get along. But, I tried to do the best job I can, put blinders on. And I was talking to someone this morning, and, you know, she was telling me about a situation yesterday where she had brought everything that she needed to the theater the day before. And then, she was a little late getting there yesterday morning, and the person in charge yelled at her before the show. And I said, all you say is, you’re absolutely right. I made a mistake. How do we move on? 

Steve Cuden: So what you just said is so key because so many people are afraid to use the words, I’m sorry, it was on me, I did something wrong. Let me correct it. People won’t say those things because of pride or ego or whatever it is, but being able to admit that you’ve done something that wasn’t quite right, or being able to admit that you weren’t right for something that’s very mature. 

Steve Cuden: And so people that are not ready for that, they’re going to go, why not me? Why me? And instead, it should be next. 

Richard Skipper: Well, one of the things that I love the most in this business is the collaborative process. 

Steve Cuden: Sure. 

Richard Skipper: I love working with other artistic people. And I always say, bring your ideas to the table because it may be something that I didn’t think about, or it may be something that’s going to take me to a whole different realm that I wasn’t even aware of. So when those situations happen and you’re working with those great people, Liza Minnelli once said that as much as she loves being in front of an audience, it’s the magic of what happens in a rehearsal studio where the magic really happens, because that’s when you’re creating it, that’s, you know, and there’s something about the alchemy of, you know, artistic people coming together, and that is a process that I absolutely love. But when you’re working in an ego driven world that we’re in business, there are certain people who cannot get past their egos. There are certain people, and you and I both know them. They get a script, and they go through the script to count how many lines they have. 

Steve Cuden: Indeed. 

Richard Skipper: And sometimes you may have 150 lines and not make the impact that you could make with one line. So it’s like what you do with that line or with that moment to pat myself on the back for a moment. One of the things that I hear from so many people that I’ve shared stages with is how giving I am, because I don’t make it about myself on the stage. And Carol, Channing said, there are two types of people. There are entertainers, and there are performers. 

Steve Cuden: Oh, that’s great. 

Richard Skipper: A seal is a performer. A seal is only interested in one thing, getting a fish. So the seal will balance a ball on its nose, flap its wings, do whatever it can to get that reward. An entertainer, on the other hand, comes in and is not focused on themselves, how they look, how they sound, any of those things. It’s always about the audience. I went to see a show this weekend, and the artist that I saw did not have the greatest voice in the world, right? But it was one of the best shows that I’ve seen because of the way it was crafted, the way it was put together, and it was the connection between her and the audience, and it was great. And I’m a huge fan of hers, and I would go to see, and this was the first time I ever saw her, but I would go to see her again. 

Steve Cuden: You’re talking about two good things here. One is that you are a secure person in what you do, so you’re not trying to be better than someone else. You’re just trying to do the best that you can and taking in what they’re bringing to you. And the other thing you’re talking about, which is a, big time key in script writing, but also in the business of entertainment, which is the number one cardinal sin of screenwriting or scriptwriting or playwriting or libretto. Writing is. Don’t be boring. 

Steve Cuden: Whatever you do, you can get away with a multitude of sins if you’re just entertaining. That’s what you’re talking about. This performer that you went to see was being entertaining. 

Richard Skipper: Exactly. Absolutely. 

Steve Cuden: And that’s really very important for people to understand that it’s not about being down the middle of the road in an audition or a performance. It’s taking a position and being entertaining in that position, whatever that is. 

Richard Skipper: This didn’t happen overnight. You know, it takes years of getting to a point where I go, this is me, this is who I am, this is what I do. And I mean, this morning, I was watching, Ben Platt. he’s going to be doing a residency at the palace theater, right? And here he was, he was talking openly about being a gay man and being in this world. And there’s a great series right now that’s going on, on CNN, about the history of Vegas. And because I’m always about the entertainment aspect of it, learning about these things. And there are certain people, like, let’s use liberace, for example, okay? And Liberace, the insiders knew who he was and what he was about. But these little old ladies who would go to see the show, thought, what a nice man he would be. Nice to introduce to my daughter or something like this. And then there are people who go, I don’t like him because he didn’t come out. He wasn’t open about who he was and everything. And look at the timeframe. If he was open at that time, he could have lost every job that he had. 

Steve Cuden: For sure. 

Richard Skipper: It was illegal to be a gay man in the United States at that time. This goes back to what you and I said earlier of, not always knowing the circumstances when we’re looking through the lens of somebody else. And so the best thing is when you reach a point in this business where you can say, this is who I am. This is what I bring to the table. It’s going to open doors for every single person that’s listening to this show. 

Steve Cuden: Let’s talk about who you are, then. Let’s talk about cabaret and singing and performing and entertaining and reviews. Do you think of the shows that you put on as reviews, concerts, cabaret? Is there one word that fits it, or is it a bunch of different things? 

Richard Skipper: It’s all of those things. I mean, like the show that I’m doing now, celebrating 60 years of hello, dolly. When I’m putting something together, I’m looking at the biggest entertainment value that I can give to the audience. And again, that goes back to making sure that the audience is having a good time. Those of us, I have a friend, he said how lucky we are to be in the happy business, that our jobs are to make people happy. And I love that I said, I’m stealing it from you. Steve Darren, it’s his. But to be in a business where for an hour, 90 minutes, 2 hours, that our job, for the most part, unless you’re doing a heavy drama or something, is to make people forget their troubles for that timeframe and to take them on a journey. So with me, and this again, goes back to my being that little kid watching tv in South Carolina, a variety show, giving, pulling out all the stops, all the elements, all the things that I learned from watching those shows over the years. 

Steve Cuden: So Ed Sullivan had a variety show for years, and years and years, but it was not cabaret. 

Richard Skipper: well, I disagree with that. 

Steve Cuden: Okay, good. 

Richard Skipper: People have a closed idea of what cabaret is or is not. When you see a concert in a huge arena, Taylor Swift, you see what she’s doing performing in the largest arenas in the world. To me, that’s still a cabaret show. Cabaret is an element of bringing all of those things together. Liza Minnelli, we mentioned a couple of times, Carol Channing, Bette Midler, Barbra Streisand. If you’ve had the opportunity to be in the audience of any of these artists, they have this gift, making it feel like you’re playing just to, ah, one person in the audience instead of trying to entertain the entire masses. You know, on any given day, from the moment you get out of bed until you put your head on that pillow each night, that you have no control over what everyone else that you’re going to encounter on any given day is feeling or not feeling. And so when you go into a situation, if you go into this idea of, my job is to make sure that everybody in this room feels great. If you focus on one person and you say, I’m here for you, every single person in the audience is going to have that same experience. 

Steve Cuden: Interesting. Is there a difference between that and, let’s say, a Broadway musical? That’s not cabaret, is it? 

Richard Skipper: No, no. A Broadway musical is a book show. You’ve got dialogue that’s going to be specific to each show. I mean, like, in the case of what I do, of course, I have what I call my bumpers that get me from point a to point b and beyond. But navigating through that, I’m a very in the moment artist. When I’m on stage, it’s all about that moment. And you have to be aware of everything that’s going on around you. I have a, a dear friend, David Friedman, great, writer and songwriter. he teaches this thing called the thought exchange. And all of us try to somehow change our thought processes. If I am walking on and I go, oh my God, my throat is closing up, I’m having issues. Most people are going to think, how do I get over that? But the fact is, you’re having throat issues. You’re feeling this. You’re in the moment. This is what you’re feeling. If you’re feeling nervous or any of these things, acknowledge the fact that you’re feeling nervous, that you’re feeling whatever it is you’re feeling at any given moment. 

Steve Cuden: Do you actually tell the audience that? 

Richard Skipper: No. 

Steve Cuden: No, you’re just acknowledging for yourself in terms of what your performance is going to be. 

Richard Skipper: If I’m having vocal issues, the audience is going to know that I’m having vocal issues, okay? I don’t need to, you know, I don’t need to bring attention to it. I’m just there to entertain them again, and, you know, and I try to bring whatever I’m feeling in that moment, you know, straight through in terms of the, artistry of what I create. If I’m feeling nervous, I’m feeling nervous, and I go with that. 

Steve Cuden: So I’m a great believer in being in the moment. That the issue of performers being in the moment, that’s really a wonderful thing for a performer to be able to do, which not everybody can do. It takes a while for people to understand that, but at the same time, when you create a show that you’re gonna do, it has to be programmed in some way so that the musicians know what they’re going to play. You’re not just suddenly getting up on stage and saying, you know what, I feel like singing this song. But they’ve never played that song before. It has to be something that’s programmed. 

Richard Skipper: You know, I want to tell you something. It’s funny that you say that, because I’ve done that. 

Steve Cuden: So your musicians must be incredible. 

Richard Skipper: They have to be, I always say to them, bring your personalities to the table. You are not just accompanying me. You are co starring with me on this stage. So if you feel like saying something or shouting something out, go for it, because that keeps it, you know, spontaneous and in the moment and everything, of course, it’s rehearsed. I mean, the first performance that I did of this new show that I’m doing, I do before the parade passes by, and it’s at a specific spot in the show. But one of the things that I do is I take questions from the audience, but the question cards are spread out to the audience before the show starts. I don’t screen them. I don’t look at them. My director, my stage manager, they pick out what they think are the best questions for, the show, and then they’re put on the table, on the stage, and I will pull them. And my very first show, someone asked about before the parade passes by, and I got to that card, and as I’m reading this card, I thought, this is the perfect place for me to sing this song, even though it was not where I normally do the song in the show. So I turned to my musical director, Dan Pardo, and I said, dan, let’s do that song here, because I think it fits in with what I’m telling right now. And God bless him, he went right with it, and the musicians went right with it, and we were there. There aren’t too many people that would be willing to do that on the stage. But I felt that it was just the perfect place to do that. 

Steve Cuden: But that’s part and, parcel with the audience that you’re actually appealing to. 

Richard Skipper: Absolutely. 

Steve Cuden: You’re not getting a card from someone in the audience that says, let’s do stairway to heaven by Led Zeppelin. 

Richard Skipper: No, well, that’s not going to happen anyway. 

Steve Cuden: Well, that’s what I’m talking about, is that. Is that, to a degree, you and your fellow artists, the musicians that are backing you up, have to be somewhat on the same page? 

Richard Skipper: Oh, absolutely. You have to be on the same page. Last, year, I was working with someone who is a brilliant musical director, and I love working with him, and he has a history of, you know, working in the piano bars. And I was doing the show on March 12 of last year, which happens to be Liza Vanelli’s birthday. And I have a friend that was coming to see the show who does an impeccable Liza impression. Okay. And I knew she was coming to see the show, and I said, I want to bring her up on stage. I wasn’t doing my dolly show at that time. And I said, I want to bring her on and I want to do maybe this time with her. And he said, well, we haven’t rehearsed it. I said, that’s okay. We’ll just go with it. And, he was so upset about that, you know, it was like he said, unless I rehearse something, I, can’t do it, you know? And then to go back to Carol Channing for a moment, who many, many times was in the audience at my shows, she told me that she would kill to be able to do what I do as far as the spontaneity of what I did on stage, because Carol, everything with her was scripted. She had the gift of making everything feel like she was saying it for the first time. But if it wasn’t on the script, on the page or anything, she would not deviate from that, and it would make her nervous. One thing, you know, I’ll share this. She didn’t like working with understudies, for example, because she had a certain rhythm to everything she did on stage, and she was specific to it. If she touched a button, it was the same moment every performance. That was her comfort zone of where she wanted to be. 

Steve Cuden: She was particularly disciplined about that. 

Richard Skipper: Absolutely. And she did over 5000 performances of Dolly. And so to be in that mindset, and yet everybody that I know who worked with her said to be on stage with her was the most magical thing in the world because she always delivered exactly, you know, the same thing every night. And it worked for her. For me, I’m always feeling the rhythm of the audience that I’m performing to. When I come out at the beginning of my show, I asked for the house lights to be brought up. I want to see who’s in the audience. And there are some artists who. That fourth wall needs to be in place for them. I want to know who I’m about to play for. And you can see it on their faces, you can see it in their body language, you can see it in everything. And that also grounds me. This is the audience that I’m playing for tonight. This is not the audience that I played to last month. 

Steve Cuden: Then it’s critical that you have the mass of the show extremely well in your head so that you can then, I’ll use a football term, you can then punt when you’re ready to punt. 

Richard Skipper: Perfect. That’s exactly right. 

Steve Cuden: But you couldn’t do that if you weren’t really well immersed in everything in your head. 

Richard Skipper: Yes. One of the things that Carol used to do, again with Dolly, Carol Cook, did Dolly in Australia, New Zealand. And she told me that her routine with every show was she would give herself time and she would start at the end of the play and she would work her way backwards to the beginning of the play. By the time she reached that moment where she makes her entrance at the top of the show, places were being called for her to walk out on stage. And, which I thought was fascinating that she told me that it was just working backwards every night. But I run aspects of this show in my head every single day and I’m constantly reading if there’s an article or something. One of the things that I do every morning is I will google hello, Dolly today as we’re doing this, today’s date, and I see what was going on with various productions at that day, or I put a year in and see what was happening. And, like, my next show that I’m doing in New York is actually on Pearl Bailey’s birthday and my opening dialogue. And it’s also the end of, women’s History month. Tying all of that in together. Before I take the audience on this. 

Steve Cuden: Journey, and you write all that, don’t you? 

Richard Skipper: I write it’s all in my head, yes. 

Steve Cuden: Are you making it up as you’re getting on stage or have you written it down? 

Richard Skipper: No, I’m making it up as I get on stage. 

Steve Cuden: You are. So it’s just a matter of having all of that information sort of at your beck and call? 

Richard Skipper: Yes, yes. And that’s one of the reasons why, you know, and I’ve been doing this for years and it’s a brand thing for me, is to do the question cards from the audience, because, ah, not only does it give me a chance to commit with people in the audience, and, I have that back and forth with people, but sometimes a question will take me on a journey or it will trigger something that’s in the back of my head that I haven’t thought about in a while. 

Steve Cuden: Then talk me through how you program the show. How do you decide I’m going to sing these songs? Not those songs. How does that work? 

Richard Skipper: Well, in the case of the show that I’m working on now. A great director. A great director, James Beamon, who comes in and says, I think this song would work well here. So we have a construct of what the show is going to be. I know exactly where the songs are going to be in the show, and for the most part, we’re not going to deviate from that. Once in a while, if a question comes up that I feel this song would work well here, then we make that change. But once we get through that song, that puts us right back on track to where we are in this, in the script. Because I do have a running order with the show, taking the show on the road, I don’t always have the luxury of bringing my New York team with me. So luckily for me, all my arrangements are charted. I send them on. I’ve got a situation where I’m about to go to California to do the show, and I say, my musical director here in New York, and I’m working with a completely different team that I’ve never worked with before. And I tell them, watch the video of the show, get a sense of who and what I’m doing, and then know that anything can happen. And that’s for me, it’s like walking a tightrope. I love the flexibility of, being able to walk on that tightrope without a net underneath me, not knowing where that’s going to take me. And for me, it’s like you and I having this conversation right now. I don’t know what the next thing is that you’re going to say to me. And as an actor, when we’re doing a scripted piece, we know what the next line of dialogue is. But I love the flexibility of not knowing what’s going to happen next, except, for the songs that are in place. But I mean, in terms of the dialogue, that’s going to get me there. And I take it for granted for so many years, but so many people have said to me, oh, I wish I could do that. 

Steve Cuden: Well, it’s not the easiest thing in the world to do. You have a gift for it and. 

Richard Skipper: I have a gift for it, and that’s my gift. That may not be your gift or someone else’s gift. I have another friend who does a, great podcast himself. My shows are all live, and he tapes his show within an inch of his life, and he edits it down and all these things. And he said, I could never do what you do, but what you do is brilliant. Accept that and acknowledge that, well, the. 

Steve Cuden: Audience may not know the difference and that’s all that matters. That’s true, because I was trained early on that the audience should never know the blood, sweat and tears you went through to get to the performance exactly that you ultimately present. They just want to know what the finished product is. 

Richard Skipper: Well, you mentioned another name that I’ll bring up. Linda Pearl. Sure. And I had Linda Pearl on my show recently, and we were talking about that very same thing that I, asked her what her process was before she went live. And she said, she talks about, you know, getting the hair right and getting the makeup right and hoping that the dress is going to fit perfectly and all these other things that go into those moments that happen. And then you hear your introduction and you hear the opening of your music and all of those things are there, and you just have to walk out into it and trust that the gods are on your side this night and all those elements are going to come together. 

Steve Cuden: The gods had better be on your side. So do you have an example of something that did not go particularly well and how you bailed yourself out of it or something that screwed up, like you’ve lost your microphone or things have fallen down on stage or something like that? 

Richard Skipper: Yes. I was doing my show at a supper club in New York called, Helen’s, and it was my opening night July 5, and I was sold out. I had most of the New York press in the audience, celebrity filled room, I’m happy to say. And as I was getting ready to go on. My show opened. This was when I was performing as Carol Channing in those days. There was an opening video of the real Carol Channing, that gave, like, a chronology of her career. And then at the end of that, the very last song is hello, dolly. It would go into my orchestra. I had a five piece band, three backup singers. They’re all on stage. The music would start, and then I would come through the audience, and I’m standing in the back. And I said to my assistant, I’m going to pass out. And she said, you’re nervous. And I said, no, this is not nerves. something’s happening in my body. I’m going to pass out. She said, it’s just nerves. You’re going to be fine. So I make my way on stage. I do my opening song. I’m singing my second song. And as I’m singing the song, I’m having an out of body experience because I could feel my body was shutting down. And so I felt this tingling going up my legs, and it was just, like, rising up my body, and I could feel myself. My body felt clammy. I felt like the room was spinning around in front of me. The song I was singing was the beauty that drives a man mad from sugar. And the last part of the song is mama mad, mama mad, mama m mad. I hit the final note, and I hit the floor. Oh. And the audience is applauding. I’ve got it on tape. The audience is screaming. They’re applauding. And finally someone said, is there a doctor in the house? I think he’s passed out. And so they came up, they made an announcement that they were gonna get me out of the room and that no one needed to leave. and they would decide whether the show would go on or not. We called the paramedics. The paramedics came. I went downstairs. They gave me some glucose, and I said to my musical director, I’m, going to do the show, and we’re going to pick up right where we left off. we’ll go back to the bridge of the song, and we will act as if nothing ever happened, and we’ll continue. So there were two paramedics there, and I asked them if they would walk me on stage, and they said, if you’re not able to go on stage on your own, you should not be doing this. And my musical director said, are you kidding? He wants to make an entrance. So, I came on stage with two paramedics. The audience is going crazy. We picked up where we left off. And I did the show and I just kept going. 

Steve Cuden: Do you know the story of Dick Sean’s demise? 

Richard Skipper: Yes. Yes. 

Steve Cuden: It sort of reminds me a little bit of it. The audience doesn’t realize it isn’t part of the actual. 

Richard Skipper: Exactly, exactly. And the same thing happened with David Burns. David Burns. David Burns. 

Steve Cuden: That makes you the ultimate trooper. You just went on with the show. The show must go on. That’s the phrase, isn’t it? 

Richard Skipper: That’s the phrase. And one time I was doing my show in Albany at a place called the egg, and I felt, I don’t know if you’ve ever had a migraine headache. 

Steve Cuden: Yes. 

Richard Skipper: but if you have a migraine headache, you know what it does to your vision, you know what it does to, your fingers. I’m sitting there and I’m going, the worst migraine headache of my life. And I went out, I did the show. I got through. It was a, two act show. I went out, did the first act. I came back to my dressing room. My husband comes in and I said, are they leaving? He said, no, they’re out there cheering. And I did the second part of the show, and the next morning, the reviews came out, and they were all raves. And the entire show, to me, was an out of body experience. It comes a moment where, if you’ve been around long enough, technique and training will override everything that you’re feeling. And there are many artists that have gone on who have talked about how sick they were, and then, you know, they just get through it. 

Steve Cuden: I need to ask you before we, get toward the end of the show here about Richard Skipper presents. Where did that come from? What is it for the audience, the listeners that don’t know what it is? Tell us about Richard Skipper presents. 

Richard Skipper: Well, it’s actually Richard Skipper celebrates. Oh, I’m sorry. That’s okay. A lot of people. See, years ago, I started writing a blog, and I reached out and I asked for idea suggestions for what the blog should be called. And a friend came up with the idea. Richard’s rants and raves. And, that’s what my first blog was called. And then someone said, you’re always raving, but you’re never ranting. And I got to thinking about that. And when you think about where we are, I go back from, again, that kid in South Carolina with the variety shows to where we are in the industry with reality based television. What is the underlying theme of every reality show? 

Steve Cuden: What’s the underlying theme? Yes, usually. Can I win can I win? 

Richard Skipper: And everybody else is made to feel less than sure. Is my design better than yours? Is my. 

Steve Cuden: Isn’t that every award show that one person’s gonna win and everybody else is a loser? 

Richard Skipper: It’s pretty much. It’s pretty much the way that our culture is set up. And so I feel that there’s enough of that out there that my goal. And you do the same thing. I, want to celebrate the artist. I want to celebrate to me. I love to celebrate. And I’ve got friends coming over for dinner tonight. Nothing makes me happier than to bring a group of people together. And again, forgive me for where I’m going with this, but I learned so much from Carol Channing. Sure, she said, in order for a show to succeed, you need people from all different walks of life. I remember calling her up one time. I was performing in a country club, and the audience was, like, sitting on their hands. It was the worst audience that I thought that I’d ever performed to. And I called her up and. And I said, carol. She says, richard, I have something to tell you. Those people are not there to see you. They’re there to see each other. M and she said, and, know that when you perform in these places and but for an audience, these are people who have bought their tickets. They’ve come together. And to me, it’s like making a great, soup and putting all the ingredients together. That audience is made up of all of those people from different walks of life, different levels in their careers, non careers, whatever. And they’ve come together for that hour and a half to be with me. And there’s nothing to me that’s more exciting than that. And so having these people come together and then making them all feel this collective feeling of having a good time, that’s the secret for me, that’s incredibly wise. 

Steve Cuden: What she’s saying is, they’re not there to see you. They’re there to have a good time with one another. They’re out for an evening of socializing with each other. 

Richard Skipper: Well, you know, my husband, sometimes he’ll say, well, it will upset him that friends of ours, for example, may not necessarily want to come see my show. And I go, well, would you want to go to, you know, a certain rock performance or something? Because we’re not big fans of heavy metal. that’s a good example. Why would we want to sit in an audience and subject ourselves to something that we don’t necessarily want to be there for? 

Steve Cuden: Sure. 

Richard Skipper: Well, of course. And in this business, when you are proactive in every aspect of it in terms of self promotion, getting the word out. We absolutely want our friends to be there to support us. But for me, there’s nothing more exciting than walking out in front of an audience where I don’t know anyone in that audience. That, to me, is the ultimate, because. 

Steve Cuden: You get to win them over. 

Richard Skipper: I get to win them over. 

Steve Cuden: You and I have both been to shows that they were not our cup of tea, but we went as an obligation because we needed to. You will sit there, you’ll enjoy whatever you can take out of it, and you go home later and you think, yeah, I, don’t need to see that ever again. 

Richard Skipper: You got it. Check it off the checklist. 

Steve Cuden: Exactly. But most of the time, you want to go to enjoy yourself again. Back to this notion of being entertained. You want to be entertained. 

Richard Skipper: Well, it’s not just about the money. It’s time. It’s effort. I live in. I don’t know exactly where you’re coming from. 

Steve Cuden: In Pittsburgh. 

Richard Skipper: Okay, Pittsburgh. You mentioned that earlier. I’m here in New York, and in New York, going into the city to see a show. It’s gas, it’s tolls, it’s parking, it’s, you know, all of those things that have happened before I walk into the venue. 

Steve Cuden: Sure. And so not to mention can be dangerous. 

Richard Skipper: not to mention it can be dangerous, which is a sad commentary on where we are right now. 

Steve Cuden: Absolutely sad. 

Richard Skipper: But it’s absolutely true. I mean, I was going into the city, to see a show on Saturday night, and we were on the west side highway going down, and a car was flipped over, and this was on St. Patrick’s day. I’m a very empathetic person. To see that upset me tremendously, you know, wondering, I hope they’re okay. How they survived, something like that, I don’t know. We don’t know. And I listened to the news later that night, and there was nothing reported about this particular thing, but it was there and I saw it. And, you know, you’re dealing with, you know, the traffic and, you know, and all of that I wanted after, you know, coming back from South Carolina, I had an event the next night, and my flight was canceled at the airport and, like, scrambling to figure out how am I going to make this, you know, it all worked out, but there are a lot of stress levels, not only for myself, but for audiences, too, that are coming to see anything. 

Steve Cuden: Well, going out today is a lot different than going out in the 1960s. 

Richard Skipper: Yes. 

Steve Cuden: Just from the expenses alone, that can bring stress to people because it’s going to be very expensive today to most things, but all these other stresses. 

Richard Skipper: Right? And now they’re talking about congestion pricing in New York. 

Steve Cuden: Oh, I saw that. 

Richard Skipper: And when you look at the congestion pricing, it’s everything below 60th street. Well, what’s below 60th street? Cabaret rooms, Broadway theaters, concert halls. These are the people that are going to be affected by this. 

Steve Cuden: Listen, when you go to New York, I go to New York occasionally as a visitor, sometimes on business, but frequently as a visitor. And you are always feeling like you’re being squeezed in central New York, in central Manhattan, you are. You’re being squeezed because they know they have you as a captive audience, so they take advantage of that. Most people just go along, shrug their shoulders, and say, okay, well, I’m in New York. It’s going to cost me so much money. But you don’t want to be doing that all the time. M that’s why, as an audience grower, you want to find other ways to enjoy yourself that don’t cost you an arm and a leg. 

Richard Skipper: Hopefully. 

Steve Cuden: Hopefully is right. I’m curious about you teach. What is it you most enjoy about teaching? 

Richard Skipper: Again, it’s the collaborative process that’s between me and the person that’s taking the workshop that I do and just figuring out what makes them tick. You know, what are the obstacles that you’re facing? What is it that we can take to move you from point a to point b? And to me, when I’ve worked with someone and they’ve got certain barriers, I’m, working with a career coach now. The teachings of Bob Proctor, and one of the things that he talked about was the terror barrier. We all have these terror barriers that are their imaginary creatures that we’ve created in our lives, that scare us from walking through that door to get the things that we require in our lives, the things that we want in our lives. And anytime I see someone walk past that terror barrier to get to where they want to be doing their first cabaret show, going out and auditioning for something when it’s something that they thought about for whether they get the job or not, the fact that they made the effort to do so. And to me, it’s all about making the effort. One of my favorite lines from, the music man, when Marion meets Harold Hill at the footbridge, she says to him, I almost didn’t come here. And he says, you can spend a lifetime collecting tomorrows to find out you have no yesterdays. 

Steve Cuden: Oh, that’s such a great line. 

Richard Skipper: That’s a great line. So just get past it. Just get out there and go for the things that you want in your life. 

Steve Cuden: Isn’t it interesting how many times in your life you do have that barrier, and you don’t know where you’re going to get to when you. If you’re going to get there. And then you push past the barrier, and you go, wow. What was that all about? Because I just needed to do it. 

Richard Skipper: Well, I’ll take you back to August 5, 1970. 918 years old. For five years. I mean, all I talked about was, I’m going to New York. I’m going to New York. And every year on August 5, I would go, four years from today, I’m going to New York three years from today. And every time, my parents would laugh at me. And, you know, and I’m this brave person that I’m going to go to New York, and I’m going to show them all, and I’m going to make, everything come true. And I got on the plane. It was the first time I’d ever flown in my life. And I sat down on the plane, and I burst into tears because I was scared. 

Steve Cuden: Sure. 

Richard Skipper: I was 18 years old, and I came to New York in 1979. And as I jokingly tell people, it’s not too much of a joke, but I thought I was coming to New York of breakfast at Tiffany’s Sunday in New York, you know, on the town. And what did I arrive in the middle of? Taxi driver and midnight cowboy. I mean, New York in 1979 today is Disneyland compared to what it was like then, right? 

Steve Cuden: It was rough trade then. 

Richard Skipper: It was rough. I mean, you know, 42nd street from 8th Avenue to 9th Avenue. You were taking your life in your hands 100%. And there were no cabaret rooms or anything on the other side of 9th Avenue as there are now. because it was a scary place to be. There were the prostitutes and the hustlers and the drug dealers and all of that. And I go, but it was exciting that it was. 

Steve Cuden: I can recall New York in the late 1970s for sure. And the three weeks that your parents gave you turned into, what, 45 or 50. 50 years. 

Richard Skipper: 45 years. August 5 will be 45 years. 

Steve Cuden: Isn’t that marvelous? Well, I am having truly one of the most wonderful conversations I’ve had on this show with Richard Skipper about his career and how you do this in the entertainment business. And we’re going to wind the show down a little bit. And I’m just wondering. You’ve told us all these wonderful stories already, but do you have a story that you like to share that’s either weird, quirky, strange, offbeat, or maybe just plain funny? 

Richard Skipper: Well, I mean, the funny thing is that if anyone looks at my career and the life that I’ve had in this business, everything about it is quirky. if anyone had ever said to me that I would make a living performing as Carol Channing, which I did for 20 years, I would have thought that they were absolutely crazy. I didn’t pursue it. It pursued me. She was one of the voices that I used to do on the front steps of my high school. And then coming to New York, she announced that she was doing her last revival of hello, Dolly. That a friend of mine called me up and said, if you don’t do a show about Carol Channing, you’re making the biggest mistake of your life? Because I would get up and perform at parties, not dressed as Carol, just getting up and doing the voice and everything. So circumstances led to me being able to perform for Carol before I opened the show. And thank God she liked what I was doing, because if she didn’t like it, I would never have done it again. Because to me, it was important that she respect what I did. And that one moment, again, taking chances, going through the terror barrier to get to that point where I said, I am going to go and do this. And she, you know, the end of the evening, and this is a big part of my show, I tell this whole story with lots of photographs, for anyone out there who wants to come see the show. But I told the story. I said, you know, carol, all these people are here to see you. They’re not here to see me, but, before you go, I’d like to do a song for you. And she said, you would like to do a song for me? And I said, well, actually, I’d like to do a whole show for you. And she said, just tell me when and where. I sit upstairs in ten minutes, and she stands up and she announces that the entire audience is going to come up and see me. And she sat on a stool in front of me. I did the show. Was I scared? Was I nervous? Yes. But I got through it, and I did the show for her. And at the end of the show, she got up and she spoke to the audience, and she said, this is not a tribute. It’s a Valentine. And that was the beginning of that career, and I did it for 20 years. And when she stopped performing and her husband Harry passed away, I thought, it’s time for me to stop. And then what’s the next chapter? And then I go out and I start preparing again. But if anyone had ever told me that, that one moment of taking that chance would have led to, with everything that I’ve done in this business, the greatest thing was her friendship. 

Steve Cuden: Isn’t that just a great tribute to her, too, that she was open to it? 

Richard Skipper: Yes, she was open to it. There’s a funny story that I’ll tell you. You going back to your question earlier, I was doing my show, and she was in the audience, and she’d come in after the lights had come down, and I didn’t want to bring any attention to the fact that she was there because I wanted to keep it quiet and everything. So I’m on stage and I’m telling the story as Carol about her first time on stage. And I said, I knew when I stood on the stage of the current theater in San Francisco that I was standing on holy ground. And from the audience she goes, it’s hallowed ground. So, of course, the entire audience at that point knows that Carol panning is in the audience. And then she stands up and she said, isn’t this great? But you got to get every word right. 

Steve Cuden: Well, she definitely knew how to bring. 

Richard Skipper: Attention to herself when she wanted to. 

Steve Cuden: That is for sure. All right, so last question for you today, Richard, you’ve given us an enormous amount of great advice all along this path today, and I’m wondering, do you have a solid piece of advice or a tip that you like to give those who are starting out in the business, or maybe they’re in a little bit and trying to get to that next level. 

Richard Skipper: I’m going to go back to Claude Bristol. Okay. Set your mind on a goal like a homing pigeon, and go after it with dogged determination. I mean, we are in a world where everyone says don’t. Steven Sondheim said it. Everyone says, don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t. The fact of the matter is, and I’ve learned this, you know, you reach a certain point in your life, even with the recent passing of my mom, you realize how fragile our lives are, that this moment is all we have. And that’s the message of dolly. You know, it only takes a moment. Get outside of your comfort zone, go out there and do these things a lot of people talk about, I want to do this, I want to do this, I want to do this. Everything’s in the future tense when I retire, when I have enough money when I have this, when I have that, when I have that, do it. Just get out there and do it. And that’s the way I treat every day of my life. And this is the truth. I get up and it’s like, what can I accomplish today? And it’s like the expression, how do you eat an elephant one bite at a time? You can’t. It’s not going to all happen overnight. It’s lucky when it does. But when it happens, you know that you’re prepared and you’re ready for it. 

Steve Cuden: Well, that is just absolutely tremendous advice. And anybody that’s trying to be in this business that we’ve been in for a long time, it is one bite at a time. You can’t get it all at the same time. So you have to go at it at one step at a time, but with dogged determination. So those two pieces of advice together are absolutely fantastic. For those of you listening, please check out Richard Skipper celebrates. You can find it on YouTube and elsewhere. And also, if Richard’s performing somewhere, please make a point to go out and see him doing his thing at some point. I would love to get to see you do your thing. 

Richard Skipper: I can’t wait. Bring me to Pittsburgh. Call your favorite venue, everybody. 

Steve Cuden: We’ll try to get you into the greer cabaret here in Pittsburgh. 

Richard Skipper: I would love it. 

Steve Cuden: Richard Skipper, this has been an absolutely wonderful hour plus on StoryBeat. 

Richard Skipper: Oh, for me too. I needed this. And this was. 

Steve Cuden: Thank you so much for spending your time, your energy and your wisdom with us today. 

Richard Skipper: Thank you. 

Steve Cuden: and so we’ve come to the end of today’s StoryBeat. If you liked this episode, won’t you please take a moment to give us a comment, rating, or review on whatever a app or platform you are listening to? your support helps us bring more great StoryBeat episodes to you. StoryBeat is available on all major podcast apps and platforms, including Apple Podcasts, YouTube, Spotify, iHeartRadio, tunein, and many others. Until next time, Im Steve Kewden and may all your stories be unforgettable. 


Executive Producer: Steve Cuden, Producer: Casey Georgi, Announcer: Javier Grajeda
Social Media: Mina Hoffman, Design & Marketing: Holly Reed, Reed Creative Group


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