Awards season is in full swing. The Golden Globes, Grammys, and Emmys are history. The Oscars are approaching. That can only mean one thing:
Michael Minutoli is probably close by.
Michael Minutoli is a party crasher, and without a doubt one of the best. For more than 15 years, this man has boldly gone where few of us would dare, and he never had a ticket. You could find him at movie premiers, awards programs, concerts, and backstage parties. Have tux, will travel.
He moves with such congruence, he blends right in. And he has the pictures to prove it – more than a thousand of them. You can find disposable camera prints of Michael with his arm around the likes of Harrison Ford, Katie Couric, Britney Spears, Paul McCartney, Dustin Hoffman, Tom Hanks, President Bill Clinton, Jack Nicholson, Sean Connery, Madonna, and Bruce Willis. Just to name a few.
And boy, does he have stories to tell.
- He escorted Julia Roberts to the podium to accept her People’s Choice Award.
- He introduced Keith Richards to Russell Crowe.
- He danced with Sharon Stone.
- He dined with Frank Sinatra.
- He sang with Brian Wilson.
- My favorite: At the 2004 Grammys, when OutKast won the award for Album of the year, a slew of young hip hop stars were joined onstage by a middle-aged white guy. Nobody questioned him. The lead singer handed Minutoli the Grammy. The presenter handed him the nomination card, which he still has.
His fascination with glitz and chutzpah has not come without a price. Michael’s self-termed addiction has cost him dearly in family separation, money, and jobs. He has at times lived out of his car, and has bounced from one low-paying job to another. He does one thing phenomenally well. So well, somebody’s making a documentary about him. Here’s the trailer:
So what can a party crasher teach you and me? Plenty, I’m sure. Here are just a few life(vesting) lessons.
1. There’s always a way to get what you want. But it’s not always worth the price you pay.
“You can’t do that!” becomes a dare for people like Michael. Often works for my wife, too. Fortunately for me (and unfortunately for Michael and the people around him), my wife usually weighs her desire to accomplish something against something called the real world.
2. Being the best of the best is nearly always accompanied by being completely lousy at a lot of other things.
What is it about people that assumes if a guy can win eight gold metals while snorting chlorinated water that he’s automatically good at everything else he puts his hand to? In Michael’s case, he obsesses about one thing. When the lights go down and the sun comes up, he’s already living for his next party. Job? Family? Those are distractions.
3. People will trust you to the degree you trust yourself.
There’s this thing called congruence. When your body language so matches your words, and you say what you do with such confidence you actually believe yourself, others will believe and trust you, too. Yes, that’s how cults thrive. It’s also how authentic leaders and servants can transform lives and organizations.
4. It’s amazing what you can accomplish (or get away with) when you act like you know what you’re doing.
Coaching legend Darrell Royal used to tell his players, “Boys, when you get to the end zone, act like you’ve been there before.” Michael thrives on a couple of simple ideas, one of which is, do something. Open the door. Ask for the picture. Get out of your seat. As Seth Godin recently said, the authenticity is in the action.
5. People who make their living pretending to be somebody else will eventually taste their own medicine.
Here’s a guy who went off to see the wizards and become one himself. Michael at a backstage party is sort of like Dorothy manning the controls at Oz. Or like Jacob of biblical fame becoming ranch manager of the biggest con in the land. Who was conning who?
6. A positive attitude, combined with patience, can open incredible doors.
Besides a positive attitude, one of Minutoli’s greatest assets is patience. At each venue, he methodically cases the joint looking for an unguarded side entrance or a departing guest who does not mind handing over his ticket. He doesn’t force things, but waits with expectency.
7. Ask boldly.
“To get a photo with Barbra Streisand, you have to be aggressive,” Michael says. I once asked a pastor friend how he was able to get a really well-known person to come work with him. “I picked up the phone and asked him,” he replied. Sometimes it really is that simple. It’s one of my most-repeated phrases: The worst they can tell you is “no.”
8. Sometimes it helps to stand out. Other times, it helps to blend in. We just need wisdom to know the difference.
Hey, it’s the partygoer’s (or churchgoer’s, or workgoer’s) version of the Serenity Prayer. I think this is Michael’s greatest talent – this instinct for when to jump up on Elton John’s piano (yes, he did that) and when it’s more effective to have a quiet conversation in the Golden Globes Green Room conversing with Prince, Sean Connery, and Jack Nicholson. Social skills and people skills, friends. That’s what I’m talkin’ about.
9. When somebody says, “Get a life,” maybe you should.
Hanging out with famous people doesn’t make you famous. Mixing it up with spiritual people doesn’t make you spiritual. Trading hellos with successful people… well, you get it. Somewhere, somehow, before God and those who know you best, every one of us has the responsibility (and privilege!) of fulfilling our own unique callings – not getting drunk on somebody else’s.
So check out the Academy Awards this Sunday night, and see who won for Best Picture and all that. I already have my choice for best actor.