The Writers: Stan Fagerstrom – Part Five

Life is tough on the road. Here Stan goes over the intricacies of casting with five new students in Brazil. Photo courtesy of Stan Fagerstrom.

Editor’s Note: This is part five of the six-part series on Stan Fagerstrom’s life as a writer and casting expert. In this installment, Stan talks about his trips to New Zealand, Sao Paulo, Brazil and a couple of funny stories that transpired in the United States. We hope you enjoy reading about this man’s amazing life. To read other parts of his story, click on the appropriate links provided here. Part one, part two, part three, part four.

From the U.S. to the World

“My appearances at various cities in the United States sometimes brought invitations from representatives of other countries similar to the one I’d had from the Japanese. One such came from the country of New Zealand. I would eventually be invited to that beautiful country on two separate occasions, each time for a full month. Besides giving the first casting exhibition of its kind ever seen on the single national New Zealand television channel, I met with outdoor clubs, visited schools and gave a performance at the Agradome in the city of Rotorua on the country’s North Island.  That casting show came right after a sheep shearing demonstration. They had to sweep up wool from all over the place before I could do my thing. My audience was almost entirely made up of Japanese tourists.

“Almost every day I spent in New Zealand if I wasn’t casting I was fishing. They put me with different guides about every four or five days and I wound up getting to fish all over the country on both the lakes and beautiful rivers on both islands. New Zealand is the biggest little country I’ve ever seen. Its beauty is matched by the warmth and gracious attitude of its people. Go there if you can. You’ll soon find this out for yourself.

“I was casting at the ICAST show in Chicago once when a man approached and invited me to come to the major outdoor show planned for the city of Sao Paulo, Brazil. This man was, at the time, a South American rep for several American tackle dealers. His name was John David Bensusan.

“Mr. Bensusan and I eventually became close friends and I was invited to the Sao Paulo show for three years in succession. At first I didn’t know beans about Sao Paulo. Like most Americans, though, I knew a bit about Rio de Janeiro, and Buenos Aires in Argentina. It didn’t take long to discover the huge city of Sao Paulo is the New York of South America. Nothing much of importance happens in that part of the world without Sao Paulo being involved. It’s also, in at least some respects, a wild and crazy place.

“While I’ll never forget my three trips down there it’s what happened on the first trip that was really something special. I’d had a call from Sao Paulo before I left asking if would plan to do a TV show while I was there. I said of course. I had done TV bits all over the place at previous casting shows.

“Well, I flew all day to get from Oregon to Miami and then all night to get to from Miami to Sao Paulo. When I landed and finally got through customs my old butt felt like it was about six inches above the sidewalk. I finally got to my hotel about 2 p.m. and thought I’d have a beer and then crap out for a couple of hours. Guess again! As soon as I got to my hotel they told me to clean up and get ready because they were picking me up to take me to the auditorium where the TV show was to take place in less than two hours.

“It was then that I finally learned what the TV show was. It turned out it was the Jose Soares show, often referred to as the David Letterman show of South America. It was taped in the late afternoon before a live audience, and then featured on Brazilian TV in the late evening. I was told it was South America’s most-watched evening show with an audience of many millions.

“They picked me up promptly at 4 p.m. and when I got to the show auditorium they asked if I just wanted to relax in the Green Room or join the audience to see what was going on. I asked to join the audience to see what I was up against.

“I was to find the Soares show was indeed structured just like the Letterman show. The big audience was on tiered seats, there was an orchestra off to one side and Jose Soares, a short and stout Brazilian who spoke five languages, sat at a table out in the center of things and his guests would join him at the table. I sat there and watched as he visited with one of Brazil’s leading male actors, the president of the University of Sao Paulo and one of the country’s leading composers. Then it was time for old Stan the fisherman.

Stan doing a casting demonstration in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Photo courtesy of Stan Fagerstrom.

“I went out there packing five rods and feeling about like I felt when I’d gone into combat in World War II. Soares soon put me at ease. He had me do a number of exhibition casts. Then he scurried over to the orchestra and asked the sax player to come down to join him. The sax player had a ponytail and Jose grabbed the end of it and asked if I could cast from where I was, about 30-feet away, and wrap my casting plug around the pony tail. I did as he asked and my line wrapped securely around the sax player’s pony tail. Then Soares scurried back to me, grabbed my rod and proceeded to “play” the sax player up to where we were so my line could be untangled. The audience loved it! I could tell from the look in the sax player’s eyes that he wasn’t all that thrilled about the experience. I’m convinced he’d much rather have had me stay the hell home in Yankeeland.

“The Sao Paulo Outdoor Show opened the following day. I learned in a hurry just how popular and well watched the Joe Soares Show must have been. I was only booked to do two performances per day. At one stretch between my appearances I signed autographs for three solid hours without a break. And that wasn’t all. Wherever I went in the city for the five days I was there, sooner or later someone would see me, say something in Portuguese that included the name Jose Soares, and then ask me for an autograph. It was Japan all over again. I even had a couple of flight attendants make the same request for autographs on the flight home.

“I don’t want to leave the impression that all those years of exhibition casting were accomplished without a hitch here or there. I don’t give a toot who you are or what you do, if it involves you performing a skill that requires an intense degree of hand and eye coordination, sooner or later you’re going to fall flat on that portion of your anatomy due west and slightly south of your bellybutton. When one of these pitfalls takes place on live TV or before a sizeable audience you’ll wind up with an immediate ego adjustment.

“I had one such adjustment that transpired relatively early in my casting career. I was doing my thing in Portland, Oregon at the time. They had my casting area set up on the second floor of the show. It just happened that there was an attractive blond lady working in one of the booths on the first floor. This blond lady liked to fish. Each time I did my casting show she came up to watch. She eventually started bringing quite a few of her friends along to show them what I could do with a rod and reel. On my last show of the day there was a sizeable crowd on hand and the pretty blond was again there with a number of her friends. I’d almost finished and was getting ready to wind things up when the blond shouted a request. ‘Stan,’ she called, ‘show us that one where you cast from behind your back again. I just love the way you do that.’

“Now at the countless casting shows I’ve done over the years I’ve always attempted to please everyone in the audience. That includes pretty blonds as well as ugly old men. With my best smile and a flourish or two I held my rod behind my back and grabbed the casting weight and pulled the rod tip down. C-R-A-C-K!  It sounded like someone had fired a rifle. My rod had snapped right in the middle. I’m left standing up there with a piece of rod in one hand and the second piece in the other. If there had been a hole in the floor the size of a doughnut I’d have slithered down through it. I’ve never really trusted pretty blond ladies ever since.

“Then there was the time at an ISE show at the King Dome in Seattle. Whenever I had a chance to do so I’d almost always go to my casting area of whatever show I was doing and spend some time practicing before the doors opened. That’s what I’d done on the day I’m talking about.

Photo courtesy of Stan Fagerstrom.

“The only target I’d bothered to set up was a small coffee cup that I’d taped to the floor about 30-feet away.  I was hammering that cup like you wouldn’t believe. I sensed someone walk up on my left. I paid no attention but just went on casting. I’d smacked that cup at least five times in a row when the guy who was watching spoke up. ‘Hey,’ he said, ‘that’s really pretty darn good! Could you hit that target on TV the way you’re doing here?’ ‘Sure,’ I responded, ‘what’s the difference?’

“When I think of what was to happen later that day, I’m reminded of a line that always appears at the bottom of every e-mail message one of my all-time favorite editors sends out. That editor is Heidi Roth, the sweet lady who edits the interesting material you’ll find at the Gary Yamamoto Internet website called Inside Line. The message Heidi sends says, ‘Even a fish wouldn’t get caught if it just kept its mouth shut.’ I should have practiced what that message preaches.

“As it turned out, the guy who’d asked me if I could hit a target on live TV was the host of a popular Seattle evening TV show. He’d been prowling around the show looking for something or someone he could use as an opener for that evening’s show. ‘Hit that cup for me once more,’ he asked. I cast and kersmack, I hit that cup dead center. ‘That’s great,’ he said, then pointed out where he wanted me to be at 7:20 p.m. ‘Our show opens at 7:30,’ he said. ‘I’m going to have you hit that cup first thing. As soon as we open I’ll introduce you and then you hit the cup. Wow!  I’m glad I found you. This is just what I was looking for.’

“I knew I’d already said way too much and it started haunting me just as soon as that guy walked away. But it was too late to back down. I had a good case of the ‘what if I miss its?’ as the day wore on.

“I was where the guy wanted me to be at 7:20 p.m., then here came the cameras and within a couple of minutes a big crowd started to gather just to watch what was about to happen. I’m standing there, rod in hand and eyeballing that cup 30-feet away. It’s getting to look like it’s about the size of a thimble. Then the show opens, the host comes on and right off the bat he starts telling his audience as well as the watching crowd what a terrific display of casting accuracy they are about to witness. ‘This guy must have been Marine sniper,’ he exclaims, ‘he just doesn’t miss his targets. He’s one of the world’s best. All right, Mr. Stan, show them what you can do.’

“I cast and I must have missed that bleeping cup by half a foot! I set a new record for cranking my casting weight back and cast again. That second time I did smack the cup but the damage had already been done.”

 

In the final part of this series, Fagerstrom will talk about performing with a chimpanzee, his thoughts on the industry, Shad Shahid and what he feels were his most important works over his career.