Good News About Painters
Boy, it’s really been a month of rejection and dejection. After a year or more of developing one best-selling idea after another, it seems that none of the major networks are interested in my reality show ideas. I figured Wet Your Whistle with Erick Gatcomb would have been a hit. This is where I travel the country and sample local beverages all the while imparting wisdom and historical trivia.
After that, I thought of Paint Wars! where camera crews would follow us around as we compete for work and perform residential refurbishments. Members of my crew would get cornered and talk to the camera about all the turmoil. Maybe one rookie would be brought to tears as he dramatically cries, “I just don’t know how much more hand-sanding I can take.”
Or how about something along the lines of The Voice where people audition in front of me and three other national paint contractors? The contestant would, for example, tape out some drywall or cut a perfectly straight line without painter’s tape and we’d compete to get the skilled craftsperson on our respective payroll. (“Come on, Nicole, you know you don’t want to work for Robert. I can pay you more. I’ll make you head of your own crew and put you on Chuck Norris’ Maine cottage.”) The judges could even have chairs that randomly start spinning around.
I thought Painting the Town would be a massive success. Follow ol’ Erick around as he bids against rival painters and goes to jobsites to deal with various conflicts. Staining decks. Safety meetings. Intimate confessions in front of a camera. Fellow painters making guest appearances. Raising Cain at the local pub in the evening. A weekend trip to the firing range with local contractors. Maybe blow up some automotive junkers…or at least shoot up some gallons of assorted exterior coatings. We would do it against canvases, then put the improvised paintings in our online store. “As seen in the Season 2 opener, ‘The Stain in Maine Fails Mainly in the Rain’.”
I’ve got presence. How could we not find our way to the top of the Nielsen Ratings?
I’ll tell you, every dog has its day, but these past 30 dawn-to-dusks haven’t been mine. To top off my steaming mug of disappointment, I still haven’t been offered an endorsement deal from my favorite brush company.
All the Good Shoes Are Taken by Basketball Stars
Speaking of which, where are all the endorsement deals for paint contractors? Guitar manufacturers contract respected musicians to play their instruments. Designers pay big bucks for beautiful people to model their clothes. Back in the day, Viceroy got Mickey Mantle to promote its cigarettes before Camel offered him a better deal. (Which is kind of funny considering The Mick wasn’t even a smoker. Maybe that’s why he was promoting Bantron Smoking Deterrent Tablets a few years later when he suddenly realized he “had to cut down smoking!”) Some world-renowned cellist endorses some gum, some famous gymnast always drinks a certain soda, and now even police-blotter folks who get famous for having an attractive mugshot are modeling everything from tennis shoes to top hats.
But not in the painting world. I never see “Joe the Painter uses ACME exterior coatings exclusively” (excellent for painting realistic, functional tunnels on the side of a mountain). You don’t see an ad of Billy smiling and saying, “When I want the smoothest finish, I use X-brand natural bristle brushes. They’re toasted!” Kara the Paper Hanger doesn’t get a billboard saying she’s stuck on so-and-so’s adhesive. Have we no Industry Superstars? Have we no professionals worthy of modeling painter whites? Are we not of the caliber that can endorse rags or primer or a 5-in-1? The closest we’ve come was probably Winston’s “Real People. Real Taste.” campaign in the ’80s, where one of the smirking models was in painter’s whites, nonchalantly holding both a roller and a lit cigarette.
I mention this for two reasons: first, I’m actively looking for an endorsement deal and second, there are Superstars of the Paint Industry. You. Billy. Joe the Painter. Kara the Paper Hanger. All of us.
I like to think of us as a fraternity. Or maybe like a coed Olympic team—all-Stars from across the league donning the white uniform to bring home the collective gold. The Dream Team of the Painting Olympics.
I know that painters often see other painters as a threat. Sometimes I’ll see a white-clad fella at the store and I’ll ask how his season is going—and he’ll eye me with suspicion, like I was conducting recon or even straight-up corporate espionage. (Ask one of these tight-lipped painters what tip they’re running to spray cabinets and you’d think I just asked for their SSN or a copy of their credit report.)
That’s too bad. Sure, we’re rivals, but rivalry is healthy—competition keeps our beautiful capitalistic system in check. You may view me as a potential enemy, but I generally think of you as a brother- or sister-in-arms. Like any sibling rivalry, I might be tempted to give you a noogie or an Atomic Wedgie, but I ultimately wish you success. If people are hiring painters in general, that’s good for all of us in particular.
’ve always hated that sensationalism sells more copy than professionalism. Why put a soldier or CNA or lobsterman on a magazine cover when you can lure readers in with a drug-addled clown, right? Me, I’d rather see tabloid headlines like “Hero Alert: Contractor Builds House in Single Month! Insider Tells All!” instead of “Busted: Famous Jerk Passes Out Behind Wheel!”
Jerry Rabushka, Editor-in-Chief at The Paint Contractor, recently relayed to me a story of one of our industry superstars. The painter got a four-page feature in the pages of TPC and he proclaimed it a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. He was proud. His parents were proud. His clientele was proud, and his future clients will feel a sense of pride in knowing they were able to secure the services of a nationally-recognized painter. (What a marketing tool! Nothing says “I’m the best of the best” like being profiled in a professional magazine.)
I got the star treatment from TPC last fall. I was invited to do an interview with Jerry and the result was a four-page feature where I largely got to tell my own story. Oh, and prime real estate on the cover of the magazine. (Mr. November—no one can ever take that away from me. Especially since I had it tattooed on my—er, bicep.) Suddenly, I had folks lining up hoping to snap a selfie with me, present me a jeweled cowboy hat, or asking me to sign their—er, elbows.
Okay, that last part didn’t happen, but it was a rewarding experience. Plus, my Aunt Gladys was proud. I think for a time she was worried that I would eventually get a magazine feature…though not in a respectable publication like TPC. Recognition for craftsmanship is far more wholesome than being featured for being a rock star with smeared eyeliner and an attitude. Not as much fun, but more wholesome (maybe). And that’s the way it should be. Our trade doesn’t get the respect it should, so we deserve recognition when it comes our way.
It could happen to you! Editors are sometimes like rival painters—you may be on their radar without ever having met them. It could just be a matter of time before Jerry decides, “I’ve got the perfect person for the cover of our October ‘Sundries, Bloody Sundries’ issue.”
You Make Me Wanna Shout
Well, that’s it for this month. I just wanted to take a minute to give a shout out to our Superstars. You may not be a household name and you sometimes might feel like you’re fighting the good fight alone, but I’m pulling for you. Again, I don’t see you as an enemy. A fun rival, sure, but never an adversary. In fact, I hope to see you in the pages of TPC. I want you to make the cover, just so I can say, “I knew Kara before she was famous and had a billboard!”
Me, I’ll just keep chugging along on this ol’ tractor waiting for opportunity to come a-callin’. Oh, I know Calvin Klein won’t be knocking down my door and asking me to model briefs, but perhaps a manufacturer of sundries or front-end loaders will offer me a lucrative endorsement deal.
Or maybe I’ll finally get one of those television shows I keep trying to land. I’m done pitching a Hollywood Squares type of program, but I haven’t given up on Painter Apprentice. With the lack of ambitious young painters here in my neck of the woods, I’d love to look at someone and declare, “You’re hired!”
Erick Gatcomb is the owner of Gatcomb Painting and Design, Hancock, ME.