He’s from Brooklyn. She’s from Chicago, and for the past 30 years they have been “following their bliss”. Bliss currently means a Las Vegas producing venture, “RainMaker Productions LLC”. Patrick Barney and Susan “Sam” Shockley say their newest business has been quite a challenge.
“Luckily,” says Barney, “We love a challenge.”
But first a bit of background.
Barney and Shockley met some 40 years ago when Shockley was an event planner with a Scottsdale, Arizona Radisson Hotel, and Barney was Coca-Cola’s man in Scottsdale in charge of community relations. Shockley was in Arizona from Chicago because her mother lived in Sun City, Arizona. Barney, a graduate of Niagara University, had worked as a teacher in Utah and Virginia, attended graduate school in Washington, D.C, and entered the corporate world with posts in Virginia, Denver & Phoenix.
Both parties were married at the time they met, so their relationship was simply a business friendship, and eventually they fell out of touch. Adds Shockley with a grin, “I had never thought of Patrick as boyfriend material.”
Ten years after that first meeting, the two ran into each at church. Barney announced he was divorced, and Shockley said she had been divorced as well. They agreed to have lunch, and those lunches continued. The two also shared an enjoyment of movies …and love blossomed…ending up in marriage.
In 1989, a year into the marriage, Shockley was offered a job in Washington D.C. as Best Western’s Worldwide Government Military Sales Manager. The new job took advantage of Shockley’s Scottsdale experience in organizing military reunions and other government gatherings. Barney was fine about re-locating and escaping the corporate world. In the Washington area, Barney taught Business and designed management training programs for various government agencies while at Northern Virginia Community College. He also was the Director of a Small Business Development Center for the SBA in Virginia.
Early in her time with Best Western, Shockley was interviewed on a Fairfax, Va. Public Access TV station. While at the station, she asked the station manager if the station had any movie reviewers. They didn’t, so Shockley and Barney volunteered to produce and deliver a movie review program, “His and Her Movie View”. After their regular work days and on weekends, the couple went to movies, and once a week they talked about those movies on local TV. Their show lasted 20 years. They made more than 600 half-hour TV shows.
Along the way, the couple also started a travel company. “We’ve always had a number of businesses,” says Barney. “Our travel company, 4 More Travel, specialized in food and wine trips all over the world.”
In the digital era, a travel company could travel with its owners. Such was the case four years ago when the couple decided to return to the West and in fact, move to Las Vegas. They brought 4 More Travel with them and started an on-line TV travel show on the Vegas Video Network.
As their TV show subject matter strayed to activities they called “Vegas Beyond the Strip”, the couple was soon interviewing a number of local entertainers. For research, they attended many off-strip shows, noting how many of the local entertainers they saw were talented and needed more opportunities to display that talent. Eighteen months ago, Barney and Shockley decided to leave their TV show, and “following their bliss,” became entertainment producers.
Then the learning began.
Though the couple was familiar with marketing, they had to “learn the ropes” about producing shows in Las Vegas. They knew their goal as producers was to produce great off-strip shows, reward talent by paying them well and possibly make a little money along the way. Searches for venues and available talent began.
The first shows produced by RainMaker Productions were variety shows, but with the free variety shows offered by a number of local casinos, the RainMaker shows were only modestly successful. RainMaker then targeted their production efforts to “whole” shows, such as “50 Pounds from Stardom” and “Elisa Fiorillo: Beauty and the Beat”. “We were very proud of these shows,” said Shockley. (The video below features the ladies starring in 50 Pounds from Stardom when they appeared at an early RainMaker variety show.)
Were these shows moneymakers? “Let’s just say that we wish more people could have seen these great shows,” answered Barney.
“We must find a way to attract visitors as well as locals to our wonderful off-the-Strip talents,” adds Shockley. “Visitors need to know that in addition to seeing a name performer on the Strip and paying $100 or more for a ticket, they can have great off-strip entertainment on the other nights of their visit for reasonable prices. Locals, on the other hand, need to realize that talent should not be devalued so much that only free shows are on their calendars.”
Says Barney, “We’ll keep working to find the right mix of talent, location, audience and price. Our dream is to own or lease a permanent location for our shows.”
A permanent location would have helped recently when one of RainMaker’s shows was cancelled when the library location for the show was shut down due to a police investigation. “We had not planned on this kind of Act of God, a disappointment for all concerned,” said Barney. “We will try to re-schedule that show in the future.”
RainMaker’s final production of the year, one that the producers admit they can’t help but being excited about, is a holiday show, “A Swingin’ Christmas” featuring Las Vegas newcomer Amanda King. Rainmaker is producing her first show in Las Vegas. (Show time is 7:30 p.m. December 2 at Summerlin Library Theater. Tickets are priced at $25.) “Amanda’s a great talent and we are so pleased to be partnering with her,” said Shockley.
And next year?
“We’re not going away,” says Barney. “Stay tuned.”