Thank goodness there are still a handful of obsessive compulsive eccentrics in the world who both enlighten and delight us all with some fascinating project that we would otherwise never ever know about.
Steve Young a head writer on David Letterman’s TV Show had created a segment for the Late Night Host where he would get a laugh from talking about obscure LP’s he allegedly had in his private collection. Young was tasked with the job of scouring scruffy independent record stores to seek out likely candidates and in doing so he came across a whole genre of music that he had never ever heard off. And until this entertaining new award-winning documentary by Dave Whisenant neither had we.
What grabbed Young’s curiosity was the discovery that major American industrial corporations had been mounting their own spectacular Broadway type productions to simply promote their products to their sales force and customers. Young who confessed had no hobbies at all until this point, was immediately entranced by what he had accidentally uncovered and the documentary retraces the steps of the fascinating journey which would eventually take over his life.
These lavish shows cost roughly 10 times what a regular Broadway Show would even though it was often a one-off performance with a very limited audience. Equipped with big budgets they attracted a wealth of stars and performers who were more than happy to sing about cars our spark plugs for these very generous salaries. Young talks to several in the film such as Chita Rivera, Martin Short and Florence Henderson and also several lesser known actors who enjoyed very successful careers just because of these industrial shows.
Everyone interviewed from composers to performers talked with such respect and a genuine fondness about their work with not a single soul even attempting to b little the fact that this was far from mainstream theater.
The shows Young uncovered from the obscure and now very collectable LP’s were cheerful and optimistic and reflected a post WW2 world where America was going through a period of economic growth and success. Finding actual footage of some of them was then the cherry on the cake.
The end of the documentary is a bittersweet moment for Young as he finds himself unemployed when Letterman retires and the TV Show stops. Strangely enough is turns out to be very fortuitous for Young, now the author on a book on the Industrial Shows, as he finds a whole new career sharing his passion at lectures and presentations.
His journey was so worth sharing, and will give you a whole new respect for your bathroom after you see and hear the performers who made you want to idolize it.