With a profession that surrounds him with Playboy Playmates and rock stars – not to mention his first feature film coming out in a few months – it may sound like Tucsonan Benny Kennedy has the world at his feet.
But that didn’t come without hard work, sacrifice, and tough stuff along the way. He also never let go of his biggest asset – his dreams.
This 34-year-old, happily married “father” of four Jack Russell terriers will be quick to tell you that even the entertainment business has its fair share of, shall we say, difficult people.
“I have worked with more delightful celebs than difficult ones, thank God,” Kennedy said.
One of the best was Playboy Playmate Colleen Shannon, who was serious about promoting her club deejay career. She even wrote a glowing letter to Hugh Heffner about how much fun she had in Tucson.
Not all are as dreamy.
Drugs and alcohol are huge issues for many in the entertainment business, with some bands being paid in beer alone.
But the jerkiest encounters involved a dishonest club honor and an overnight sensation that hijacked a car only to take it to New Mexico and get arrested.
Perhaps “hijacked” is too strong a word, as Kennedy had willingly let Corey Clark borrow the rented vehicle while he was promoting Clark at DV8 Nightclub.
Clark, as some may know, became famous during the second season of American Idol after he was disqualified for legal trouble and then claimed to have slept with Paula Abdul. He had completed a couple of gigs Kennedy booked for him and had one more appearance on the agenda.
Clark never made the final appearance, as he was arrested in New Mexico for violating his parole – the same legal trouble that got him disqualified from the show. The car got shipped back and all ended OK, but not without some heartache.
Heartache was also on the agenda when Kennedy booked local actress Tiffany Shepis, who was the scream queen of horror and the host of Playboy TV, at a local venue.
Working with her was fine – it was the venue’s owner who became a pain when he decided he didn’t want to pay.
“Maybe the 550 people that attended did not buy enough drinks or something,” Kennedy said. “I am not sure but, he was not happy and he refused to pay Tiffany her appearance fee.”
Since Kennedy didn’t have the cash, he instead had to break the news to the scream queen.
“She was obviously nowhere near happy and used quite a few choice phrases that described sexual acts with one’s self, but in the end she was paid and vowed to never work with me again,” Kennedy said. “I learned at that moment to never do an event unless you have the money to back up every last promise and to be sure every agreement that is signed covers your butt entirely.”
Kennedy also learned a lot in the U.S. Navy, where he enlisted right after high school.
“Growing up without a father was a strain on me as well as on my mother who only wanted to make sure I became a good man,” he said. “In a way the Navy became my father.
“It taught me how to fight, how to shoot a gun, how to interact with people in a strong and professional manner as well as learn organization and cleanliness. It also taught me how to work under pressure and what the meaning of loyalty and teamwork really was. I also learned how to cook for 500 people, which could come in handy some day.”
Other life experiences were felt in his bones, like knowing he needed to be in the entertainment business.
“Ever since I heard my voice on a recording I was fascinated with production,” he said. “Then when I got my hands on a video camera I was hooked for life.”
He also dabbled in radio and film as a teen, but knew just being passionate about something may not pay the bills.
“I grew up in a very low income household and was raised like many by a single mother who did everything she could to nurture my passions but, at the same time she showed me the harsh realities of life,” he said.
“I’ve worked as a cook, a martial arts teacher, a security guard, a strip club bouncer; I’ve repaired and manufactured aircraft interiors, promoted and managed rock bands, handled entertainment of nightclubs, worked with celebrities and music artists promoting and producing special events and concerts.” Kennedy also does freelance writing, voice over projects and event production – check out his website ProjectBennyBlanco.com.
Oh, and don’t forget to add his feature film, “Alien, Alien,” to his credits. The movie is being co-produced with Tucson native and Hollywood producer Mark Headley and will be screened this winter at the Loft Theater.
Kennedy’s main passion, always, has been making people laugh – even the security guards who escorted him out of the parking lot when he was once let go from a job.
“You can’t believe how stressed-out security people get when they have to escort someone who was just laid off to their car,” he said.
He also wants to send a message that any dream is attainable – even working with Playboy Playmates in the entertainment industry – as long as you’re willing to work for it.
“Always remember this is a business that thrives on hopes and dreams,” he said, “and the moment you stop dreaming there is no hope for success.”
Ryn Gargulinski is a poet, artist, performer and TucsonCitizen.com Ryngmaster who loves to dream big and make art out of debris. Her column appears every Friday on Rynski’s Blogski. Her art, writing and more is at RynRules.com. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Who was the most difficult person you ever had to work with?
Would you ever want to work in the entertainment business?
Are you going to see Benny’s film when it comes out?