We had the good fortune of connecting with Larry Dean Harris and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Larry Dean, is there something that you feel is most responsible for your success?
In my career, I’ve always looked at what everyone else is doing and then done the opposite. Years ago, I was asked to produce a fund raiser for a Toledo-based AIDS service organization. At the time, all the benefits were black-tie, very formal, sitdown dinners in pricey hotels. So our event was informal, creative attire, no tables (so people could mingle more), in non-traditional venues. By our second year, everyone was copying us. I once developed an ad campaign for an eyewear company. We didn’t show a single pair of glasses, but rather all the beautiful things you could see with 20/20 vision. We were featured in ADWeek magazine.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I’m a businessman (advertising/marketing) AND a theatre artist (playwright/storyteller). You wouldn’t expect those to work together, but in this age where “story” is so popular it’s on its way to becoming a cliche, I am finding more demand for my skill set. The secret to a good story is simple: share your truth in an economical, entertaining way. After years of telling stories for clients in a 30-second television ad or a 60-second radio spot, I find a thousand word story almost an embarrassment of riches. As a producer of the storytelling show Strong Words, the biggest pushback I get from writers who submit stories is about word count. Nobody wants to hear a 2000-word story. But if you take the time to ruthlessly edit that story down, you’re going to have an audience on the edge of their seats.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Am I allowed to say a road trip to Palm Springs? Because you can stop and see the legendary Pee Wee dinosaurs on the 10 Freeway. Then you can hit all the midcentury neighborhoods, tiki bars and rapturous thrift stores. You can pool hang, cocktail, hike, smack tennis balls and even wander over to Sunnylands to see the desert gardens where Obama once strolled. Back in LA, you could spend an entire week in Silver Lake alone. Hike the mountains of Griffith Park, get a day pass at the legendary Body Builders Gym and work out alongside famous folk like Kate Pierson from the B-52s. The food options on Hillhurst alone will keep you happy: from brunch in the gardens of the Alcove to the dreamy flavors of Jeni’s Ice Creams. Catch a flick at the historic Vista Theatre or venture down Sunset to the Cineramadome. I still love record shopping, so it’s easy to kill a few hours at Rockaway and Amoeba. And then, of course, you have to check out my amazing – and free – storytelling show Strong Words in nearby Atwater Village. Stories, music, art and an amazing and diverse community of artists and the people who love them.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I owe everything to my first “real world” boss Ron McKinney who taught me about business and how to treat everyone like they’re special. Ron gave me my first big break and continues to play a role in many of my successes.
photos by Michael Hirabayashi