Working in the Theatre: Odd Jobs 2


[music] My father came from Europe, so he was a shoe-maker on the bench, and he worked on the bench and educated himself. When the original owner wanted to sell it, he had to sell it to someone who understood the business ‘cause the showroom and the
factory is two different businesses in one. I was 17 years old when I came here, and this is my 42nd year, and the business has changed quite a bit. When we originally came, there was strictly
a custom orthopedic shoe store. I always wanted to bring it one step further
into the theatrical end of it, and there was back and forth with my father. He didn’t want to do it, I wanted do it. His argument was he didn’t know anything
else other than the orthopedic end of the business. Helping people with polio… whatever, whatever
their problems are. I always thought that Broadway just was an
addition to the business to make it grow. Then my father passed away. He passed away unexpectedly at the age of 46. When he passed, that was our chance to do
it, and we actually did it. It’s paid off since. I mean, we do 85% of all Broadway musicals. Our first show was The Tap Dance Kid. My thought was with the knowledge of what
we had in orthopedics, we could actually incorporate that into the dance shoe. So the actors get the best of both benefits,
a custom shoe with a little bit of orthopedic knowledge into it. When you make an orthopedic shoe, you’re
actually making the shoe to the bottom of the person’s foot. So, you got to use 100% of the person’s foot. When you make a theatrical shoe, you have
to make the shoe tight enough where the dancer can feel the shoe, but when you want to put
the orthopedics into it, you actually have to make the shoe just a little bit deeper
in certain areas. This way, you can incorporate that orthopedic
end into the shoe without jeopardizing any of the flexibility in the shoe. That’s his foot, and this is what we created. From this foot, so it just fits just on there. And if you look at it, it covers everything. So, now there will be no pressure points on the foot. The print actually helps us, see he’s pretty flat footed. That’s why you see all the blue. It’s just very little right here. So, we fill that in with an arch. But the amazing thing is just look at how
big this gentleman’s foot is. We actually created this. It’s going to come out to be a nice looking shoe. 40 years ago there were more polio cases,
there were more people that had no choice but to get a custom made shoe. Today, a lot of people are wearing sneakers. So, they don’t need the custom made shoes. When I came here, my father, he actually put
me in the factory. Don’t know why, but now I understand why. He wanted me to understand the process, because
if you understand the process of making a shoe, you understand when you’re talking
to a designer how you’re going to build the shoe and why you have to build it that way. Anybody can sell a pair of shoes but you have
to know how to build a shoe to be able to sell it. Dancers, actors, they have to go to therapy,
they go to doctors, because most of their feet are damaged. Some of the doctors we work with, they know each other. They send one person over to make a certain
shoe, and then they were so impressed with the way we made it, that they recommended
to therapists then everybody else. Then the designers got involved with us. When you make a shoe for any Broadway show,
or any person in general, the whole process once you start making a form with the measurements
you take, if it’s a big foot or if it’s a little foot, you have to be able to make
the shoe look like something. You have to be able to make sense. That’s why custom made shoes are a little
trickier than standard made shoe, because a ready-made shoe is a standard lass. You know, all of them look exactly the same,
when you custom make a shoe, 10 people can have the same shoe and they all have to look
the same but they have to fit differently. So, that’s a lot to take in, you got to
actually think about it. Then, when you go into Kinky Boots, we had
to make a man fit into a lady’s shoe. So, we developed a form that had the man’s
measurements and we made women’s last, but it was a lot of back and forth in the factory. Everybody was involved in the process. We made the shoes and I would actually be
the guinea pig and try them onto see if it was going to work. So, we changed a few things. We had to get certain shanks in order to hold
the man’s weight because some of the men are big. With 5 and a half to 6 inch heels, then they dance. So, we had to make it to where it was safety-
safety was a big aspect. It’s better to make sure we get all the
kinks out of it in the factory than the dancer or the actor come in and put them on and find
out we had a problem. Some of the original shoes are still on and
they’re still wearing. When you’re on the stage dancing, you don’t
want to worry about your boot, your shoe, or anything you have on. You want to do what you have to do and be safe. Ah, there he is! How you doing my friend? Good to see you, as always. Ready? Let’s do it, come on. As an original cast member, I mean 5 years
in, I’m now on set 2 of second and third pair of shoes being made for each number and
Gino makes every one. Then, when they break or get wobbly, we send
them in for repairs and they’re back the next day. Now, there we go. If it’s a heavy dance show, choreographers will actually come in and say “This is what they’re doing. Usually the dance captain would come in, too. When the designers give me the bible and I
have to look through every single page. Every single design, and even though they
have a lot of notes there, some of them make sense, some of them we have to readjust, as
far as getting your foot inside and out. How the dancer is going to actually dance in it. They have to explain to me the show, so when
they show me the designs we actually know how to build it for the show. But all of that’s process. Then we talk about how they want certain details. The beauty of this is being that we built
the shoe, we know how to correct the shoe. You try to stay within their budget, but if
you’re going to custom make the shoe they have to understand they have to pay for it. If you’re putting on a 15 million dollar
production, you can’t have a budget with clothes and shoes only. It’s tough. It’s tough, and they have to cut back on their order. Or else they just have to bite the bullet
and say “You know, you’re right Gino. It’s a big production, if we want it right,
then this is what we have to do.” [music] This is Aladdin. I would say Kinky Boots has the most detail. Kinky Boots, Wicked, even Aladdin. There’s so much detail involved. I enjoy detail. Going into the shoe, designer have certain
things that they want to see that makes the product stand out even more, seeing the picture
come to life, you know seeing them happy like “This is what I had in my mind, you captured
my picture.” Then you twist it and curl it, depending on
how curly you want it, you would sand it more and more. This is the end result once it’s all finished. Then, they got to cover that little seam right
there, then the soles go on with a special heel. This is Hamilton. These are all Hamilton shoes. Gotta bend them down so
they don’t catch the clothing. A lot of the dancer’s forms are here we
keep them with last show they worked on, we pull the form out, and we know it’s perfected
already because they actually used it on other shoes. I believe one day it will end cause there’s
no more shoe manufacturing here in the states. So, all the supplies we need: buckles, thread,
shanks, leather, it all comes from outside the United States. Shoemakers are getting harder and harder to find. Years ago when we first started, we used to
have all the salesmen come in with you know their sales briefcases and they would actually
display everything they had: buckles, elastic, snaps, shoelaces. Now, that’s a thing of the past. Now we actually have to go look for it, get
a lot of stuff custom made. As I get older, I mean there’s really no
one that I know of that’s going to take the business over because there’s not that
many people that know about custom making shoes to the degree that we understand them. See, because there will always be a need,
but there may not be a source. When I go to see the shows- everybody looks
at the show, I look at the shoes [Laughter]. Because there are certain things in the shoes
that I want to see if you can actually see it from the audience. Sometimes you do, sometimes you don’t. It’s a good feeling to get your product
up on Broadway, it’s a good thing to see your product in museums that will be there forever. It’s a good thing to help people walk comfortably
and do their job more comfortably. This business was started and has always done Broadway. So, we’ve been doing Broadway since 1908. Dealing with Broadway, we really have to be
as perfect as possible because there are no do-overs. You know, if you take your clothes to the
dry-cleaner and it comes back with a broken button, yeah you might be upset but you’ll
bring it back to him. We have to make sure everything is perfect
because it has to go on stage that night. They just want to be able to get their costumes
and put them right on stage. Last night we picked up about 30 shows, we
have all 3 Disney productions here: Aladdin, Frozen, and Lion King. We have Pretty Woman here, we have Book of
Mormon, we have Getting the Band Back Together, we have Boys in the Band. My Fair Lady is here, which actually is our family favorite. I’m really on call 24/7. We’ve always had 2 or 3 full time tailors. There’s also a couple of people that if
we need a little extra help, are capable. Monday to Friday we run production, there’s
a handful of us who are here at 2 o’clock in the morning, checking in the clothes and
getting the clothes clean and then the pressers and the drivers start coming in at between 5 and 6. For the most part, we’re always in this
building by 4AM. By the time I get here, Bruce has already
been here sometimes 2, 3, 4, sometimes 6 hours before me because things need to be done immediately. The cleaner will come anytime between 2 and
3 o’clock in the morning and then they’ll open up the bags and start emptying out the bags. Then, they’ll hand write a list. Nothing really is computerized when it comes
to the shows. Everything is handwritten because it’s quicker
to do it that way because they have to look at everything. They have to make sure that if something has
to come off of them or if something looks any different than the week before. So, everything is looked at more than once
and very carefully. Then, it’s determined on how it’s going to get cleaned. We do several different types of cleaning. Wet cleaned, dry cleaned, hand cleaned. There is a dry cleaning school which is actually
in New York. It helps make our industry a better industry
for people to be educated, making sure you’re doing the right things with all the chemicals
that you’re dealing with on a daily basis. Whatever’s going on in the dry cleaning
world which mostly these days deals with environmental regulations that we have to deal with, so
there’s just a lot of paperwork more than anything else. Everything is more efficient today than it was years ago. To be environmentally conscious, you need
to handle the chemicals and dispose of them at the end of their life cycle in a proper manner. There’s also packaging that could be better,
recycling of hangers, recycling of plastic. Broadway has something called the Broadway
Green Alliance, so Broadway as a whole over the past 20+ years has done things like change
the lights to more energy efficient lights and stuff and we’re a part of that because
we deal so closely with Broadway as well. I actually went to school for theater: Acting, Singing, Set Design. I think my education in college absolutely helped me here. Just knowing how certain things are painted
or how things are beaded. There’s a lot of times that we might have
to remove buttons or buckles because they would get damaged and obviously we would have
to know how to put them back on in the right manner. Bruce actually does all the scheduling for
the costumes. He is so on top of it. Even before the wardrobe people actually call
him, he’ll get online and he’ll know what the schedule is before they even know themselves. Sometimes the company manager when the company
starts will call us to say “Hey, we’re starting this production and whatever paperwork
that needs to go between us and them to set up the account.” But for the most part, the conversation between
me while the production is the wardrobe supervisor because they know the time they need it picked up. They know the specialty needs they might have. [music] My day to day work is basically you do everything. Down to cleaning the toilet bowls if we have to. Sometimes I have to call the wardrobe supervisors. Sometimes I have to call the producers or
the company managers and I have to get things together. Sometimes I have to call our regular customers
because we do regular dry cleaning for the upscale people. When a production starts, if they know something
was maybe dyed but they’re a little worried it wasn’t set properly, they try to give
us a heads up. They want to pinpoint a specific stain that
they’re aware of, we kind of look out for it. I mean, there’s bead work that we see all the time. There’s all kinds of stuff. In the back, one of the pieces we have today
is, it kind of looks like a horse saddle, but it’s from Frozen and it’s for Sven,
who I believe is a reindeer. There’s a special way we need to actually
package it when we get back so we don’t lose the shape on it. Something like that may actually be able to
only be done by hand and then we address it more for the odor than anything else. We have a room specifically to treat the odors. There’s a couple of machines that we have,
there’s one called the Ozone machine and the other one is something called hydroxyl. They are used by restoration companies- fire
restoration companies- to kill some of the odors. Especially if it’s a big musical/dance type of thing. The big things we look out for is the make-up
and perspiration. Occasionally a stain or a spill of anybody
eating something. This place is kind of like for a kid Disneyland
with all the costumes and stuff. It wasn’t really until I started driving
that I realized that you think every dry cleaner looks like this but it doesn’t and really
the reason that I started coming here is at age 6 or 7 when everybody else was playing
little league and all the other fathers were there and my father was never there because
he was always here. So, that’s what brought me here in order
to be around my dad. We are very unique. There are dry cleaners even in New York that
are larger than us, but nobody that does Broadway. Ernest Winzer was actually a man who started
the business in 1908. My grandfather bought it in 1952 from Mr.
Winzer himself. My grandfather put my father to work. That’s my grandfather. That was made for him when he retired. Don’t even know what all the signatures
were so there might have actually been some famous names there. I started working full time under my dad in
1986 when I graduated college, and then my father retired in 1999 so I took over in January of 2000. Bruce’s schedule was always different than
any other parent’s schedule so when the kids were growing up, you know, he always
went to work or went to sleep around 6, 7 o’clock at night, and my kids were “Hey,
Daddy, let’s go play.” [music] When I first started in the business, each
particular costume actually had to mark with a tag. It kind of had a clip, you had to put it on
obviously properly. Today, everything’s a little bit more high tech. I was at show, sitting in house seats so pretty
much up front, and there was on stage one tag on one coat that was onstage pretty much
90% of the show that I kept seeing going around and around and around and around… Remember that the show must go on. So, these are the shows that we’re getting
ready to deliver today, so this is Aladdin. It has a lot of beading. Hello Dolly. School of Rock. Pretty Woman. Boys in the Band. Stuff for Radio City. That is Lion King. Famous hyenas of Lion King. So the Belasco has an opening tonight so they’re
looking to get it early and the Booth is looking to get it in early as well because they just
closed and they want to pack it up. [music] Getting the Tony Award this year, you know,
sort of solidified how important we are in this industry. So, you know, we’ve always taken it seriously. You know, when anyone calls me with any kind
of problem, you know I take it to heart. Even if it’s not that we did something wrong
but if something’s not perfect in any way shape or form, I just feel like we didn’t do our job. We let them down. A lot of my wardrobe people still, whenever
they text me, right now it’s “Mr. Tony Award Winner, can we ask you a question?” It’s nice to know that we are appreciated.

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