|Phil H. Webber / P-I|
|Sharon Galloway, leaning on the railing, owner of Live Wires booking agency, is surrounded by impersonators who work for her: Philip Edward as Elvis, Lisa Gallo as Marilyn Monroe and Brian Lovelace as a stripper.|
Wednesday, August 27, 2003
Big wigs, fun gigs become way of life for versatile booking service
Sharon Galloway wouldn't be startled if Zeppo Marx, Snow White, the Blues Brothers and a stripper all emerged arm in arm from behind her Lake City bungalow.
In fact, the 61-year-old actress, who owns and runs the Live Wires booking agency from her home, would be delighted.
The smoky-voiced grandmother is building a costume area inside a new garage, where her stable of 200 actors, singers and dancers can easily pick up company-owned clothing and props as they head out for the roughly 35 gigs a week she arranges for them.
Live Wires' performers can pierce their arms with pokers, sing in barbershop quartets, impersonate Richard Simmons, draw caricatures, play elaborate practical jokes and entertain kids at parties by involving them in fairy-tale or superhero dramas.
"Someone wants SpongeBob Squarepants to renew their wedding vows," she sighed yesterday during an interview. "I've gotta deal with this woman."
Sitting in her office with dogs Bacall and Harlow, Galloway explained how she came to start Seattle's most versatile booking service.
A Seattle native, she got involved in theatre at age 8. Though she won a theatre scholarship while in high school, she never used it. In her late 20s, Galloway began acting again anyway, appearing at the Bathhouse Theatre and the Olympic Dinner Theatre.
In 1980, she was working for a real estate developer, designing kitchens and bathrooms, when she heard about "this new thing out there -- singing telegrams -- and I thought, 'I'd like to do that.' "
Recently divorced, she had $150 in savings, a home in Queen Anne, two young children to care for and an outlandish idea, which she put into action in October 1981.
"I started out with singing turkeys," she recalled. "Honey, there was not a big demand for singing turkeys."
The business expanded when "everyone kept calling for strippers. I didn't know what they were, but I went to some clubs, and when they had a mind and a personality, I thought it was very entertaining."
Over time, she added singers, magicians and comics and began booking corporate events.
Now, strippers make up about 25 percent of her business. Children's performers are another 25 percent, and the singing, comics, roasting and telegrams make up another 25 percent, with the rest miscellaneous appearances.
At birthday parties, children are "often enthralled with role-playing, choosing their wands for their magical journeys," she said. "Kids you're normally screaming at to keep them in one place are just swept away with this."
Offering strippers as well as other performers is unusual for a talent agency, but Seattle's liberal nature makes it possible, she said.
Galloway said she works 14 hours a day, usually seven days a week. She sometimes takes jobs herself, appearing as comic aging stripper Angelina di Linguina, who peels off rubber gloves and other outerwear to reveal granny bloomers and a T-shirt.
Her business mirrors the health of the economy, so in the early 1990s, it took a downturn, as it did on Sept. 11, she said. It's not very profitable, she said, because everything goes back into the business.
"I can live off it, but there's nothing really extra," she said.
Galloway takes up to 50 percent of the roughly $135 cost of a singing telegram, and a "much smaller part" of the cost for appearances by well-established comics and magicians, which can range from $500 to $2,000.
Yellow Pages ads used to be the way most business came into the agency, but they were so expensive they required Galloway to work as a legal secretary to pay for them. Now about half the agency's business comes through its Web site, www.live-wires.com.
Galloway sees herself as not only a businesswoman, but a nurturer of talent. About 12 actors rely on her exclusively for their bookings.
Lisa Gallo, who plays Marilyn Monroe and several other roles for Live Wires, said Galloway is "a delight to work with. I always feel she has my best interests at heart."
In an upcoming gig through Live Wires, Gallo will be appearing at PCC, Whole Foods and Larry's Market as Sparkle, The Tooth Fairy, for British toothpaste brand Kingfisher.
You'll recognize her, she says -- she'll be the one wearing the tutu, wings and gigantic molar on her head.
Rafe Wadleigh, who serves as music director at Holy Names Academy when he's not acting in pranks for Live Wires, calls Galloway "one part mother, one part Mafioso boss and one part insane -- very organized, very articulate, very intelligent and creative."
Though running Live Wires is hard work, Galloway says she'll never give it up.
"My mother begs me, 'Please go back to the law firm.' I'd rather die," she said.
"This is much more creative. And you're seeing things of beauty, a lot of growth."