Area writer goes ‘backstage’ with celebrities

September 23, 2018

HASTINGS, Neb. (AP) — For nearly 40 years, Hastings resident Kent Theesen had been gathering stories for his recently released book, “Backstage Behind the Curtain.” He just wasn’t aware they would end up in print.

Released officially on Sept. 1, the book features 60 celebrity encounters Theesen has had while building his extensive autograph collection during his varied careers, which include stints in show business as an actor, radio personality gigs, and manning the front desk in the hotel industry.

Featured artists include former President Bill Clinton, iconic musicians like Alice Cooper and Al Stewart, Hall of Fame athletes like Ernie Banks and Yogi Berra, and popular actors like Tony Curtis, Stacy Keach, Jerry Lewis, Brian Dennehy and Joe Pesci.

The Hastings Tribune reports that the idea for the book had been percolating in his head for some time, he said. It took some prodding from friends who had heard some of the stories to get them to paper, however.

“I used to tell these stories to people over a beer at local bars and noticed that as the opportunities to meet and interview these celebrities and athletes continued, I had plenty of stories to tell,” he said. “What makes these stories interesting is that through these conversations I share the reader can see these individuals are just people like you and me, individuals who happened to be in movies, TV shows, or professional athletics.

“This isn’t a brag book at all. The point of it is to share a slice of my life with the reader, times when I was in the right place at the right time. We’ve all looked up to celebrities in one way or another, put them on pedestals, and made them larger than life. Hopefully, through these stories and pictures from my private collection, readers can see just how down to earth most of these people really are.”

Ironically, it was a celebrity encounter he had with a country singer not included in the book that has influenced his marketing strategy for selling it. Watching a young Kenny Chesney sell cassette tapes out of the back of his car trunk sent a message to Theesen that was later reinforced by his own publicist, Brooke Benschoter: When opportunity knocks, be ready to answer.

“I always carry books in the back of my car now, because you never know how many you may be selling in a day,” he said. This practice has scored him multiple book sales in restaurants, bars, coffee houses, and other less traditional marketing locations.

“What I do is interact with people,” he said. “I put the book in their hands. They can look at it, feel it, touch it.

“I show them that these stories are just three or four pages long on each celebrity. They’re short reads. That’s the beauty of this book. It’s a pretty quick read.”

He has been able to combine his digitally enhanced photography art and book into displays at a few area stores, as well. Other ongoing efforts to market the book have included book signings at the state fair and radio interview on K-COW in Alliance. It was at K-COW that Theesen began his radio career as a disc jockey 39 years ago.

As he contemplated his book signing at the Sequel Bookshop at the Hilltop Mall in Kearney, he felt a stronger sense of connection with those whom he has immortalized in his short stories, realizing the commitment it takes to realize even a minute degree of recognition.

“I’m just Kent Theesen, a local guy from Hastings selling books,” he said. “But we’re all special in our own way to people. It’s just how we come across to them.”


Information from: Hastings Tribune, http://www.hastingstribune.com