An offer I COULD refuse
It was the day I thought, "Wow, I've finally made it to the big time."
It was the day I got my first--and only--call from an agent.
I'd been in Milwaukee at WKTI for a couple of years, and things were going great. I'd always handled my own affairs but heard of other radio types in large markets who hired someone to do their stuff--contract talks can be dicey, hurtful affairs as you try to wrangle the most money you can for yourself while your employers do the exact opposite. It's business, but it's sometimes hard to keep it from getting personal.
That's where the agent comes in.
He/she can say/do all the things you don't want/like to do to/with your employers. You keep showing up on time to do your job while someone else does the heavy lifting. You and your bosses maintain the same fine professional relationship you always had while the acrimony plays out, hidden from view. You get called into the office when the sausage is finally made, sign on a bottom line and go on with your career. The agent gets a cut off the top, and everyone goes home happy.
It was that "cut off the top" part that saved my bacon when it came to my one and only come-on from an agent.
Saul Foos was well known in the industry in the 80's. He represented my idol, Chicago's Larry Lujack and a whole bunch of other Windy City radio/TV types. I couldn't believe it when he was on the other end of the phone, inviting himself to guide my career. I was flattered by the attention but mystified that he considered me to be low-hanging fruit, someone worthy of his talents. This isn't false modesty, but that fact is I wasn't making big, Chicago-style money. I had no affairs to manage. I had a life insurance policy or two from my late grandmother and a paltry savings account.
Foos didn't seem to care, peppering his come-on with all manner of big names he was already doing business with. I said I'd think about his offer and get back to him.
I excitedly told a friend who was also in the industry about the offer and how this big-city Chicago agent was pitching woo to little ol' me and boy, wasn't I a big deal now and wow, shouldn't I just pounce on this opportunity to legitimize my professional progression.
Slow down, he said, deflating my over-inflated head while reminding me of a cold, economic reality: Foos and those of his ilk don't come for free. They'll take a percentage, a healthy one at that, off the top of any deal they cut for you. Do you really need to have an agent, he said, much less need an added expense for something you can do just as well yourself at this point in your career? You aren't Lujack, he reminded me, and you aren't making his brand of money.
Foos didn't handle rejection well. I said thanks but no, telling him that my relationship with my current employer was such that I didn't need to invite a third party in. I was too ashamed to say I wasn't making the kind of cash that warrants an agent, too embarrassed to say I was too cheap to pay. He pretty much left me with the feeling that I was too dumb to know a good thing when he landed in his lap and that he will keep doing just fine with all of his well-heeled clientele, minus me, thank you. Foos told me not to expect a call back.
And it never came.
Time Out Chicago's Robert Feder tells what happened to Foos after my brush with him all those years ago. I knew it wasn't good, but never got the skinny on just how bad it got.