Neil A. Carousso is the producer of The 880 Weekly Rewind with Lynda Lopez, airing Friday nights at 7 PM on WCBS Newsradio 880. Each week Lynda talks with newsmakers for a deep dive into the top stories of the week and the impact it has on people.
Neil A. Carousso produces and co-hosts WCBS Newsradio 880’s Small Business Spotlight series with Joe Connolly. Click here to watch the weekly video segments featuring advice for business owners on survival, recovery and growth opportunities.

    Entertainment

  • Hungerthon 2021: Tom Chapin carries on brother’s legacy fighting hunger, poverty 40 years after his death

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    By Neil A. Carousso, Wayne Cabot and Tom Kaminski

    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) – Hunger and poverty is an issue made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic, but WhyHunger believes it is solvable.

    “Food is a right, not a privilege,” said musician Tom Chapin of the non-profit organization’s motto.

    WhyHunger helped 1,036,065 people find access to nutritious food and essential services last year through their hotline and online resources. Through its COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund, it has mobilized $845,223 in emergency funding to 42 partner organizations and social movements across 8 countries.

    Those rapid responses include distributing food, medications and PPE to vulnerable people, supporting food banks and pantries to meet rising demand during the pandemic, and developing the capacity of farmers to grow sustainable food while also developing a local distribution infrastructure.

    “Almost 12 million children don’t know what they’re going to eat this week,” said Chapin. “Those numbers are drastic. The good news is, WhyHunger has been, since 1975, putting hungry people in touch with food, helping them towards self-reliance, and really, working toward food justice.”

    As a board member, Tom Chapin has taken the mantle from his late brother Harry Chapin who founded WhyHunger in 1975 with radio DJ Bill Ayers. Harry tragically died in a car crash on July 16, 1981 on his way to a free benefit concert at Eisenhower Park in East Meadow, Long Island.

    “As Harry said when he was really a major star, ‘You know, it’s really cool I’m doing this, but being a rock star is not an end in itself,’” Tom Chapin recalled. “He always felt that he had a bully pulpit, which was pretty remarkable. I mean, you think about we talk about this guy now 40 years later and not even about the songs so much but about this idea that he had that so many other people have picked up and carried on. It’s kind of humbling and also just kind of magical.”

    Annually through its Hungerthon auction and various partnerships, including with WCBS Newsradio 880 and the station’s parent company Audacy, WhyHunger brings together radio personalities and celebrities to raise money to put an end to hunger in America. Listeners can bid on exclusive in-person and virtual experiences, including a private concert from Chapin and his band.

    “The real heroes here are not me,” he said, continuing, “It’s the people who have kept it going and the day-to-day people at WhyHunger and all of our partners – those are the real heroes here – and the people we’re talking to who open up their pocketbooks, and say, ‘Yeah, I want to be part of this. I want to help.’”

    See how you can join the fight against hunger and poverty and get a sneak peek of Harry Chapin’s private concert auction item on the video above.

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  • Shift in Sales Strategy Helped Brooklyn Production Company Scale

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    By Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso

    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — It was a eureka moment.

    Matthew Saravay, CEO of Brooklyn-based Wizard Studios, was forced to reimagine his production and events business during the COVID-19 pandemic. While attending a Vistage executive coaching session, a light bulb went off in his head.

    “(The coach) said, ‘Who wants to hire somebody?’ And, I raised my hand and he said, “What do you want to hire?’ I said, ‘I want to hire a salesperson.’ He said, ‘What do you want the salesperson to do?’ I said, ‘I want him to bring in a million dollars in business next year.’ And, he said a question to me that changed everything. He said, ‘How would you like that?’ I’m like, ‘What do you mean?  I want it all now.’ And, he said, ‘No, like, do you want 100 $10,000 sales or 10 $100,000 sales.’ That gave me pause. I’m like, oh man, I want 10 $100,000 sales,” Saravay recalled on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight, sponsored by Dime Community Bank.

    He left that day with a fresh perspective. He revamped his sales strategy and began pursuing local advertising agencies that represent major corporations.

    “In my perfect world, the brand is my customer. In the real world, the brand is never my customer,” Saravay explained. “We’re doing an event currently for Hilton, but there is another company that has hired us to produce the work that we’re delivering.

    He told Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso that 50 percent of his revenue now comes from local advertising agencies that hire his company to produce events.

    “In the agency world, they own the brand relationships, and then, they go out and find companies like ours that go out and do the physical work and create the sets and incorporate the lighting and the video and the audio components and bring it all to life,” said Saravay.

    Wizard Studios is now scaling beyond its pre-pandemic volume of 350 events a year, which previously came directly from venues. It has produced events at the top of One World Observatory, Tavern on the Green, and for the Biden Campaign and Democratic National Committee.

    While full-scale production and design for in-person events is Wizard Studios’ bread and butter, Saravay has invested in the virtual event space and does not see virtual events going away after the pandemic, because businesses and non-profit organizations are reaching a wider audience.

    “I’m actually at a site visit right now with a non-profit that’s holding their first in-person event since 2019 later this year, and I asked them the question, ‘Did you also want to livestream the event?’ And, they said, ‘Oh, we’re concerned that it might erode some of the attendance if they can see the event livestreamed.’ I said, ‘Well, we could put a gateway on that and charge admission just like you’re charging admission to come to the catered meal and see it live,'” he told Connolly and Carousso.

    By putting virtual events behind a paywall, organizers can also keep track of who has registered to get feedback and upsell them in the future.

    Several non-profits have told WCBS 880 they surpassed their fundraising goals in 2020 and 2021 because of the explosion of virtual events and lower overhead costs.

    See more on Wizard Studios and get ideas for growing sales on the Small Business Spotlight video above.

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  • It’s Chow Time! FourBlock Live MRE Cook-Along

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    Produced by Carousso Enterprises, LLC

    The FourBlock community was invited to “It’s Chow Time!” — their first-ever live fundraising event and MRE cook-along. This live virtual event streamed on Thursday, October 21st from 7:00 – 8:00 PM ET.  

    A dynamic group of veterans and veteran chefs had a friendly competition to see who can cook the best MRE using an assortment of spices and condiments they provided and anything they had in their kitchen pantries. This event took the place of FourBlock’s annual in-person reception this year, with the goal of raising funds to support the continued growth of FourBlock’s career readiness programming for transitioning service members, veterans, and military spouses. Viewers also had the opportunity to cook an MRE with the chefs in real-time.  

    This event is open to all live and now on-demand! We encourage FourBlock students, alumni, military spouses, company hosts and partners, staff and volunteers, family, friends, and the broader military and veteran-connected community to join us. Attendees who purchase a ticket receive an MRE package (complete with FourBlock SWAG) and can cook alongside our participating chefs!  

    FourBlock and the parents of the late Victoria McGrath also honored Damien Bertolo for his work mentoring veterans transitioning to the civilian workforce.

    The virtual celebration livestreamed on FourBlock’s YouTube and LinkedIn channel. The event was produced by Carousso Enterprises, LLC. The event is now available on-demand on FourBlock’s platforms.

    We may use event video clips in subsequent video segments for social media and other marketing purposes.  

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  • New York Back in Sight with Steve Schirripa

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    Produced by Neil A. Carousso, Carousso Enterprises, LLC

    NEW YORK — This Fall, celebrate New York’s reopening with us!

    Join The Eye-Bank for Sight Restoration and our host Steve Schirripa, from The Sopranos and Blue Bloods, as he takes us on a virtual tour of the quintessential New York experiences we’ve been missing. 

    Whet your appetite for our city’s unparalleled food scene with award-winning Chef Dan Kluger of Loring Place.

    Fix yourself a classic New York cocktail with master mixologist Erin Davey from the Tao Group.

    And, return to Broadway as Come From Away playwrights David Hein and Irene Sankoff share their favorite scenes from this joyous musical.

    Register here to watch this virtual New York experience from Thursday, October 14, 2021.

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  • No Laughing Matter: Caroline’s on Broadway Struggles Despite Theatres Reopening

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    By Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso

    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Broadway’s return is not providing the comedic relief clubs in the theatre district had been hoping.

    Caroline Hirsch, founder and owner of Caroline’s on Broadway, told Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso she has never experienced a challenge like the COVID-19 pandemic in her four decades in business.

    “Business was going very well until Delta hit again and people were alarmed about going out and being in crowds,” she said of the dominant strain of the virus on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight, sponsored by Dime Community Bank.

    The iconic comedy club reopened Memorial Day Weekend with a ton of pent-up demand for laughs. It took a turn late summer.

    “When the vaccine mandate came out, it really curtailed business,” said Hirsch, explaining, “We have people who are canceling because somebody in their group is not vaccinated so they won’t come.”

    She told WCBS 880 that she believes vaccine mandates are hurting New York’s live entertainment industry, but elevated COVID-19 infections are driving hesitancy as well.

    “Some comedians don’t want to go on tour; they want to wait until 2022. So, therefore, we have a bit of a talent shortage,” Hirsch said. “First, we had a labor shortage. We couldn’t hire enough waiters and waitresses. We couldn’t hire enough staff people in the kitchen.”

    Carolines On Broadway Owner Caroline Hirsch
    Carolines On Broadway Owner Caroline Hirsch Photo credit Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for Ms. Foundation For Women

    Caroline’s on Broadway had also been relying on private parties this fall to recover some losses, but some events have been postponed to next year. As a result, she predicts businesses in the Theatre District will experience a slow recovery.

    A handful of Broadway shows returned last month at full capacity for fully vaccinated and masked audience members, cast and crew. But, on opening night, Hirsch asked workers in a garage how many cars arrived and found out only two people drove in to see a show.

    “I think we need to be realistic about this and not just say, ‘Oh, Broadway’s reopening,’ but Broadway’s going to have a really tough time reopening. And, I think that we all need to help them out. I think people have to make a concerted effort to go out and buy a ticket to Broadway,” she said.

    Caroline’s organizes the annual New York Comedy Festival, which makes its return to the stage November 8-14 with pop-up shows throughout the five boroughs.

    “We’re going to do close to 150 shows around the city,” Hirsch told Connolly and Carousso.

    Bill Maher, Marc Maron and Michelle Wolf are among the comics taking the microphone.

    “You’ll have a great laugh,” said Hirsch who admits despite all the pandemic challenges and stress, she is still laughing, herself.

    Caroline’s on Broadway first opened as a small cabaret in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood in 1981 before moving to the South Street Seaport six years later. It eventually made its home on Broadway in 1992. Hirsch is known for giving Jerry Seinfeld, Jay Leno and countless other comedians their start.

    Watch the WCBS Small Business Spotlight video above for ideas on getting Broadway back on its feet.

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