Ron Onesti: The unsung heroes behind the music

  • Brothers Ron, left, and Rich Onesti have grown Onesti Entertainment Corp. over the years.

    Brothers Ron, left, and Rich Onesti have grown Onesti Entertainment Corp. over the years. Courtesy of Onesti Entertainment Corp.

 
 
Posted9/6/2019 6:00 AM

Onesti Entertainment has been growing. Along with that growth comes countless details and hours upon hours of coordination. Just think of what it takes to put on a wedding or even a home birthday party. Multiply that by about 1,200 to 1,500 shows and events annually over multiple venues … it's a lot to make happen. And for the most part, it does flawlessly.

Although I am the guy everybody sees at the shows onstage welcoming people or on television promoting them, it is the tireless support of my team that makes it all happen.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

I often tell them we are not in the music, food or beverage business. Those things just happen to be the products we sell. We are in the business of details management. That is what we get paid to do. I also remind them that forgetting a detail or making a mistake is a luxury many people have that we do not.

Can you imagine not picking up Paul Anka or Bret Michaels at the airport and telling them, "I'm sorry, we forgot you were coming in!"

Or, "Sorry Mr. Sedaka, we forgot to get you that piano you asked for. We'll get it next time."

Or, "Darn, I can't imagine why your microphone wasn't turned on, Ms. Benatar. You sounded pretty good the second half of your show, though!"

I think you get the picture.

Whether its finance, marketing, production, entertainer hospitality, ticketing, transportation, security and crowd management, social media, video production, food and beverage service, ushers, day-to-day operations, reception, retail, global management, VIP services, group sales, event management or any of the other departments involved, it takes a village of professionals to make it a memorable experience for our guests.

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I am lucky to have a grand group of dedicated and passionate people who love what they do and believe in the scope and direction of my company.

But a true "unsung hero" of the Onesti Entertainment Corp., and the "Man Behind the Curtain," has always been my brother, Rich.

We have worked together for the better part of the last four decades. He began at about 10 years old as a busboy at the deli where I worked from the time I was 12 years old. He is six years my junior.

We first went on our own by getting into the printing and silk-screen business. That morphed into a sporting goods and uniforms business called Onesti's Softball City on Irving Park Road in Chicago. I worked the front-of-the-house, he printed the shirts.

Rich would sometimes work 60 hours straight to get the many softball teams' jerseys done before the first pitch of the opening day game (there were a few times when it was THAT close).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

We did that for about 12 years, also getting involved with a bunch of other things along the way. Many years later, both Rich and I were inducted into the 16-inch Softball Hall of Fame for our contribution to the game during this time.

Among the many things that kept us busy, I was asked to host an FM radio show about current events. I accepted the challenge. My partner was the guy who made me laugh the most, my brother Rich.

It was called "The Rich & Ron Show" and we had guests including the guy from the "Time to Make the Donuts" commercial, "Epstein" from the television show "Welcome Back Kotter," and the guy from NASA who's responsibility it was to track all the random "trash" in space that fell from satellites.

It was a cool show.

We also coordinated grand openings for new businesses that included an appearance by a clown or Mickey Mouse for the kids. And when the clown was too drunk to perform, who donned the red nose and floppy shoes? Rich.

Then we got into the festival and theater business. Rich handled all the sound, lighting and other technical parts of the biz. He never had any formal schooling on the subject, mind you. But his natural ability with that stuff, plus all the street-schooling he got, made him one of the most respected sound engineers and production managers in the industry today.

We never had the funds for the "good stuff." What he had to do with duct tape and paper clips to make things work was nothing short of genius.

He has done that for years, with never a complaint or an "it can't be done" attitude.

For the most part, my job was to come up with the crazy ideas, and his job has been to make them happen. And as I continue to try and expand the company into new horizons of challenges, Rich is right there, behind the scenes, making the impossible happen, on a daily basis.

To those of you with your own businesses now, or those about to start one, I don't necessarily wish you luck. Success may have a bit of luck involved, but without hard work, perseverance and passion for what you do, it can never happen.

What I do wish for you, however, is the gifts I received. The family support from my parents, my wife, Elena, and daughter, Giuliana, an incredible bunch of family otherwise known as my devoted staff, and the unselfish genius of a brother I am fortunate to have right by my side.

Our sister, Vickie, and her family, and Rich's wife, Kelly, and son, Max, have always been there for us, too. Many nights and holidays without us. We know it's been tough.

Side note … Rich is fine! This sounds like a memorial! I just took a step back and wanted to devote a "Backstage with Ron Onesti" column about what truly happens backstage, with Ron Onesti!

• Ron Onesti is president and CEO of The Onesti Entertainment Corp. and The Historic Arcada Theatre in St. Charles. Celebrity questions and comments? Email ron@oshows.com.

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