Garry Hood has spent the last three decades as the head stage manager for the biggest award shows on TV. He has worked alongside legends such as Walter Miller, George Stevens Jr., Louis J. Horvitz, Don Mischer, and Gil Cates. The number of Oscar, Grammy, Tony, and Emmy broadcasts he's done are too high to remember. Even Michael Jackson (while being escorted to the restroom at the Kennedy Center) asked Hood how he managed to stay so calm during a live show.
Still, Hood is a bit embarrassed to recount the one thing no other stage manager can claim. "It's true," he says in a soft Tennessee twang. "I am the person who asked Frank Sinatra to get off the stage."
A little background: The 1991 Inaugural Gala for President George Bush was shot live in the round. Rehearsals [with musical conductor Frank Sinatra Jr.] included five songs, shaved down to two on broadcast night.
"Frank sings a song, chats with the president, sings another song, and then looks over and sees [Frank Jr. and the musicians] are gone. He starts asking, on mic, 'Where is everybody?' and Don [Mischer] says: 'Garry, go get him!'
"In front of millions of viewers and our new president, I walk up and say, 'Mr. Sinatra, can you come with me?' And he says, 'What do you want kid? Where are we going?' "
Growing up outside of Nashville, Hood never imagined he'd go so far. He earned his DGA card as the only stage manager on Hee Haw, "the country version of Laugh-In," he says. After working on a TV special for the Southern rock band Alabama, director Marty Pasetta asked Hood to come out West for five weeks. "My first time in L.A., and I show up at ABC Prospect [Studios] with no clue what the job is," Hood recounts. "Up walks [choreographer] Walter Painter, who says we need to start rehearsing production numbers—for the Academy Awards."
These days Hood has also been one of the most active advocates for his craft, serving on the Guild's AD/SM/PA Council East, and on the negotiating committee for the Freelance Live and Tape Television Agreement (FLTTA). He was the first on the scene when a Cirque du Soleil performer perished at a Super Bowl rehearsal, and he's been alone in the room with every president since Ronald Reagan.
"I'm proud that I've never crossed the line to ask for photographs or autographs," he concludes. "I think these [celebrities] respect that level of professionalism. They see me and know they're in good hands."