“Behind the Stage Door” with Rich Engler
by Natalie Bencivenga
October 11, 2022
Pittsburgh is a town full of treasures – one being Rich Engler. Having spent more than 53 years in the entertainment industry, Rich has seen it all. (How could he not after producing more than 6,000 events and concerts including working with the Rolling Stones, Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Marley and more!).
“I learned early on that if you work at something that you enjoy and you’ll never work a day in your life! Even after promoting thousands of concerts, I have enjoyed every minute of it,” he said. “There were some trying times when I lost thousands of dollars but I never celebrated the wins and never cried over the losses.”
He owned, operated and managed venues in Las Vegas, NV; Wilkes Barre, PA; Scranton, PA; Harrisburg, PA; Hershey, PA; and Erie, PA. He was the first inductee into the Pittsburgh Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame and owned and operated the Stanley
Theatre (now known as the Benedum Center for the Performing Arts). Rich is also the author of “Behind the Stage Door.”
Because of his legendary Pittsburgh status, Gravitas Ventures and Canted Frame Post Productions proudly announce the national and worldwide release of “Behind the Stage Door”, a promoter’s life behind the scenes from longtime Pittsburgh concert promoter Rich Engler.
The movie makes its cinematic debut on Saturday, October 15 at 5:30 p.m., on the certified Giant Screen in surround sound at The Rangos Giant Cinema at Carnegie Science Center. It was released earlier on Tuesday, September 13, on Apple TV, iTunes, Direct TV, Verizon FIOS, and Frontier Communications.
The film captures a “behind the scenes” look at what his life entails including the ups and downs of dealing with some of the biggest rock stars in the world. There are also some special appearances from manager Peter Asher (James Taylor), Alex Lifeson (Rush), manager Doc McGhee (KISS), Phil Ehart (Kansas), Lou Gramm (Foreigner), Danny Seraphine (Rock n’ Roll Hall of Famer and founding member of Chicago) Donnie Iris, Joe Grushecky among others.
“I am very humbled by the whole experience and very grateful that a national producer loved my book, “Behind the Stage Door,” called me out of the blue and said he would like to do a documentary about the book and my life,” said Rich.
I chatted with this Pittsburgh legend to learn more about his work and what he has planned next!
Was music always your first love? “In high school, I played several instruments. This evolved into playing drums and eventually I started a band in the late 70s. My band became relatively popular locally and we had one national hit in Canada. With that, I was able to learn the trade of negotiation and how to promote other bands to book them. Finally, in 1969, I was able to open my first company in Shadyside called “Go Attractions” which focused on booking and promoting national talent.
You’ve worked with some of the biggest names in Rock n’ Roll. Who emotionally resonated with you and why? “Bob Marley was one of those great stories. I promoted him during the last year of his life. It is very close to my heart. Becoming friends with many of them over the years has been great!”
What do you consider success? “Success can be measured in many ways. I believe having a great family, being healthy and enjoying life makes everything worthwhile.”
What is it that you love about the music industry? What is one thing you would like to see change? “When I started out in 1969 with my first company, it was all about the music, spreading the word about love and peace. Unfortunately, now it’s all about the almighty dollar, ticket prices keep going up along with service charges.”
What advice would you give your younger self now? “When I first started, no one was selling T-shirts. Merchandise did not exist. I could’ve had the largest merchandising company in United States. It was right in front of my eyes and I didn’t make a move on it.”
The industry has changed so much, what advice would you give people embarking on this path that you chose? “My advice would be to be super careful trying to calculate all of your moves and promote acts/bands/attractions from your brain not from your heart! As I stated in the documentary, I’ve never taken any illegal drugs, never tried or tested any. It’s important for the young people to know and believe that they can make it on their own. They just have to have the dream and make it come true through hard work and determination.”
What classic artists should young people know about today and why? “I’m sure in time there will be a game changer with music style and sound, but right now there hasn’t been anything close to the classic eras of the 60s, 70s and 80s.”
When you see all that you’ve accomplished, how does it make you feel? “It was like being on a treadmill for 53 years. I was never able to slow down nor did I want to, so I like to reminisce and look back at all the good times.”
What do you want to accomplish in your next chapter? “I really enjoy the business. I want to continue negotiating for major attractions and promoting. I work on a major concert series in Florida and I would like to continue that. I get many requests to write another book. I have another one about halfway finished.”
Your wife, Cindy, has been a huge support system for you over the years. Why is it important to have a partner who believes and supports your dreams? How do you honor her in that space? “Cindy has been a big part of my success, always very supportive and has been by my side through thick and thin. We started out with nothing. I came from a mill town and she was from a little country place out by Bedford, PA. We made it together.”