By Daniel J. Vance
In 1985, 40-year-old Marc Goldman faced a mid-life crisis. Deep down he knew he couldn't continue on as Massachusetts State Supervisor of Business and Office Education. His position was rewarding and safe, but inside he felt empty. So one day he packed his bags, and without a job or specific direction in life moved to Hollywood.
His move there ultimately would benefit millions of persons with disabilities.
"My company [Damon Brooks Associates] is the only speaker and performing arts bureau that represents persons with disabilities," Goldman said from his office near Los Angeles. Now 58, Goldman in his new career works alongside 40 talented persons with disabilities, including television stars Robert David Hall (CSI), Chris Burke (Life Goes On), Geri Jewell (The Facts of Life), and comedian Chris Fonseca (Late Night with David Letterman).
He said, "I started my own [speaker and performing arts bureau] in the late '80s. About 1990, a '90210' cast member told me about a good comedian and speaker. So I went to see this Dr. Gene Mitchener, who was an absolutely phenomenal speaker. He had a rare form of muscular dystrophy, deformed hands, and used a wheelchair. He asked me if I could help him get speaking engagements. I was extremely hesitant. A week later, someone called me to ask for an extremely entertaining speaker that had a message. They loved him."
Eventually, Mitchener spread the news about Goldman to other talented performers with disabilities.
Today, Damon Brooks Associates sends performers and speakers to colleges, corporations, association meetings, government agencies, disability associations (for fundraisers), and independent living centers. Goldman has booked Robert David Hall to address the 7,000-member American Association of Critical Care Nurses, Geri Jewell for 14,000-member FFA, and David Roche for 1,700-strong American Society of Association Executives. Speaking or performing fees begin at $1,750 plus expenses.
Besides his business, Goldman serves on the Media Access Committee (MAC). "Through networking, awareness, and hand-holding, MAC helps producers, directors, studio executives, and casting people become aware of the need to integrate persons with disabilities onto the screen," Goldman said. "It's an education process." He also serves on The Governor of California's Committee on the Employment of Disabled Persons.
His ultimate dream is to help produce a performing arts television special, one featuring talented persons with disabilities. "And the performers wouldn't talk about being disabled, but would only perform," he said.