Perhaps it is because I was raised as a storyteller then trained, through both education and career, as a journalist, that I have a deep-seated belief that a person is built through generations of kinfolks, then painted and decorated through personal experiences.
As the saying goes: There is more to a person than meets the eye. The brightest, most successful business people thrive by applying that wisdom.
Several years ago, Tink and I were returning one night — it was around midnight — from a trip to visit his beloved stepmother in Connecticut. It’s funny how the timing of these things happens. Tink was walking through the foyer to the staircase when an email popped up on his phone. Quietly, he read it (studied it, actually) then finally said, “Listen to this.”
With one hand on the bannister, one foot on the second step and the other foot dangling toward the first step, he began to read. The first line was enough to cause me to set down my purse and bag of books to listen while my eyes widened and my mouth dropped open.
“Is Mary Tyler Moore your stepmother?” the email asked. Tink stopped and cast an eye toward me and added, “Three questions marks.”
Someone was planning to write a biography on MTM and queried Tink’s agent to request an interview with him on the woman he strongly admires and deeply loves. What stunned us — and continues to be a topic of conversation that pops up from time to time — was that the email was from Tink’s new agent. The person responsible for selling him as a writer and showrunner to television shows had no idea the depth of his roots in television. His last name should have been a strong clue.
And, of course, if you can’t naturally figure it out, there’s always Google.
When Tink finished reading the short note, I took two or three beats, my heart thumping with righteous anger. “Fire her. Now.”
The sad truth is that, nowadays, whether you’re an actor, writer, producer, director or entertainer, most agents primarily take calls where someone is asking for their clients. They are not shaking the trees, trying to get clients hired. In the publishing business, it’s a bit different. Agents do go out and solicit book contracts by lunching with editors and sending out manuscripts.
Too, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Tink’s manager, Stan, is one enormous exception to this rule of thumb. A farm boy who grew up in the hayfields of Virginia, he promised himself that he’d find a way to make a living that didn’t consist of sweat and sunburn. He took his hard work-ethic to Hollywood and he is amazing: He works connections, knows every job that will be on the market before it is, and tirelessly promotes his clients.
“I’ve been a John Tinker fan since the days of ‘St. Elsewhere.’ It was my favorite,” he has often said. When Stan became a manager, he called repeatedly, begging Tink to hire him. “If I get you a job on that new TNT medical drama, will you hire me?”
He did, and Tink hired him. Stan has been a beautiful blessing.
One day, Tink hauled his clothes off to a new dry cleaner. He was giving the clerk — a woman in her late 50s — his information and so he spelled his last name.
“Tinker.” As she typed, she mumbled, “Grant Tinker.”
“My father,” Tink replied.
Her head spun around, surprise lighting her face. “Seriously?”
“Mary Tyler Moore?” she asked.
He nodded. “My stepmother.”
Excitedly, she talked about their shows and accomplishments. A woman in the deep rural South, working nowhere near “show business” knew more about Tink’s family than a Beverly Hills agency executive.
From dry cleaner store clerk to Hollywood agent overnight.
She’s gonna do a great job.