Our Showbiz Connection
It all began in Danville, Illinois in 1947, when comedian Phil Erickson was making a name for himself. Phil’s success led to pending engagements on the West Coast, but he needed a partner.
On a dark and stormy night (not really, but you have to love that line), Phil spotted a 21-year-old actor performing in a local staging of The Philadelphia Story. The actor’s name was Dick Van Dyke. Phil invited Dick to be his partner. Dick said, “YES!”
Two weeks later, the duo performed as a team for the first time at the Georgian Hotel in Santa Monica.
Fast forward to 1949. Phil and Dick had a successful act called The Merry Mutes. They got a long-term engagement at the Henry Grady Hotel in Atlanta (like Britney in Vegas). Loving the city, they bought homes and made Atlanta their base. For the next few years, they performed their act and worked together, producing and starring in a live NBC television comedy show.
In the mid-1950’s, Dick moved to New York. His star shot to new heights. He performed in hits like Bye Bye Birdie, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Mary Poppins, and Diagnosis: Murder. Phil, who remained friends with Dick throughout his life, stayed in Atlanta. Phil’s wife, Nancy, took Dick’s place in the act. Together, they opened the city’s first cabaret dinner theater. It was called . . . (drum-roll, please) WITS’ END!
Wits’ End was located at Fifth and Peachtree, in the heart of downtown. The Wits’ End Players specialized in satirical comedy, making fun of the South in general and Atlanta in particular. The group nurtured a lot of creative talent over the years, including Bonnie and Terry Turner, creators of the TV hit, 3rd Rock from the Sun.
Phil and Nancy’s four kids, Kristen, Stephen, Shari and Jamey grew up watching their parents write, stage, perform and make people smile and laugh about topics that ranged from light to serious.
Through their parent’s connections, Steve and Jamey met writers, actors, producers, cinematographers, editors, voice-over talents, animators and many other talented people in the Atlanta entertainment industry. In 1987, Steve and Jamey tapped into their network to start a video production company and WITS’ was born.
Thirty years later, we are still going strong, adopting new technologies (drones are fun) and helping our clients tell their stories.