Trender

A Detour through Chuck Harris' Visual Arts Group

by Nina Blake

Are your dreams of stardom fading? Are you encountering obstacles on the road to Tinsel Town? What if your day job is hiring yourself out as a huge obstacle and your only talent is walking around balancing phone booths and cars on your head? If the Special Olympics didn't have your event, would you give up? Or will you bend over backwards and keep going until you twist your body into a pretzel? Try that and you better believe someone will notice you. And that someone will no doubt be Chuck Harris, personal manager and show producer of "the most unusual people in the world."
With his Visual Arts Group based out of Hollywood, Harris has acquired a solid reputation for managing and producing the people that no one else can or will handle: the so-called "specialty" or "non-legitimate" acts. With a father who worked in vaudeville, Harris was surrounded by show people from the age of five and claims it was through osmosis that he developed a sixth sense for what makes an act work. Whatever the latent cause, Chuck's sense of the "non-legitimate" broke him into the Big Time about thirteen years ago when he discovered a puppeteer by the name of Christopher. Of course, Christopher is not just a puppeteer. He dances with four life-size puppets attached by two large poles on either side of his body while lip-synching to the Jackson Five and/or the Village People. Under Chuck's management, Christopher went from gigging for $50 a night in obscure corners of California to appearing on national TV; today, he's making well over half a million a year internationally. With Christopher, still the Visual Arts Group's most marketable client, Chuck showed he has what it takes to make a seemingly average person with a few strange habits into relatively wholesome variety entertainment.
The other day I went to see Chuck and found him working the phones, his office overflowing with movie-TV-theater memorabilia. Because he is hyperbolically enthusiastic about his work, conversation with Chuck involves a lot of listening. On this particular afternoon, Chuck was all abuzz about how variety is coming back. Reluctantly hanging up the phone, Chuck showed off his latest business tool: a database of all the freaks he has met.
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