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Wednesday, January 26,2011

The life of the ’Party’

Michael Patrick Shiels has built a career on playing pranks and taking chances

by Bill Castanier

 


You have likely heard Michael Patrick Shiels as host of the popular syndicated radio talk show “The Big Talker” on WJIM-AM. But he has even more to say in his new book, “Invite Yourself to the Party.”


Shiels readily admits he is a dreamer, but his book details how he made those dreams a reality and how others can replicate his success.


Since graduating from Wyandotte’s Our Lady of Mount Carmel High School in 1985, Shiels has executed some unusual stunts to stand out from the crowd and land some primo jobs.


Take, for instance, when he sought an internship with Detroit radio legend Dick Purtan. He didn’t just send a resume like the rest of the crowd.


Shiels showed up at the radio station on a cold January day with breakfast for Purtan — and not just any breakfast, but a frozen microwaveable breakfast. He placed the frozen contents on a paper plate and put it in a white paper bag, the kind you get from take-out joints.


Shiels attached a note: “Dear Mr. Purtan, I brought you breakfast. I hope it did not get too cold on the drive over." He then mentioned something about an internship.


The receptionist carried the breakfast into the broadcast booth and through the soundproof glass window Shiels watched Purtan laugh. Purtan hired the college freshman on the spot.


Shiels book is filled with the stunts, gambits and misdirections he has been pulling since he was a student at a small Catholic high school in southeast Michigan.


“I was a cut-up in class,” he said.


Shiels, who also was the executive producer for Detroit radio personality J.P. McCarthy, uses his often unusual approaches to getting noticed to give advice to students and young professionals who have dreams about where they want to go in life.


“I think it is basically, the more interest you show, the more interesting you are,” he said.


Shiels said his book is a hybrid: part memoir, part self-help, part humor and part business book.


Although Shiels has held some serious jobs, he doesn’t take himself too seriously, and he uses a healthy dollop of humor to open doors for himself.


While working at WJR — and prior to an important interview with the owner — Shiels sent a “yes man” doll to his new boss (way-way up the chain of command), Michael Eisner, CEO of Disney. It got him noticed and landed him a job interview at Disneyland.


Although a common theme of Shiels’ book is how to use carefully chosen moments of humor to get noticed, the author gives numerous examples of the importance of taking risks and being confident.


In one example, he tells about talking with a publisher about the potential for a book on J.P McCarthy, following his death.


When the publisher asked Shiels who they could get to write it, he said, “I would like to write it.”


Shiels not only wrote McCarthy’s biography he has written eight other books, including collaborations with Donald Trump and Larry King. He was disappointed the big one got away: a book with former President George H. W. Bush.


Shiels is not against pulling on-air gags on his listeners, like the time he brought on a fake guest who proposed that Mackinac Island be used for a terrorists’ prison.


Or how about that time when he took two dates to a reception at the governor’s residence?


The syndicated radio host has also used his love of golf (he’s written six books on golfing) to open doors to some big-time parties where he has rubbed elbows with the likes of Oscar de la Renta, Jack Nicklaus and others.


Just ask him about de la Renta autographing a shirt for him.


“Golf shrinks the world," Shiels says.


"It’s like a religion to a lot of people, and it has opened doors worldwide for me.”


Buried in his retelling of exploits — including fixing a Thai boxing match — Shiels provides ample down-to-earth business advice. Did you know that life and work is nothing more than Halloween trick or treating? He asks, “Are you getting good candy for your efforts before you spend time on goose chases?”


One of his tips, bringing a memorable but inexpensive gift to a party, seems a practical way to get noticed. But for Shiels this means the gift is a Lotto ticket — and not just any Lotto ticket, but a Powerball ticket.


Shiels has undoubtedly had a lot of memorable moments. Two of his favorites involved driving a car in a presidential motorcade at 21 for the President George H.W. Bush and playing golf with his son in a special foursome.


The author also suggests, as the ultimate piece of advice, that you write your own eulogy, which he then does in the book’s penultimate chapter.


Shiels’ book is a fun romp through a book genre that has too often become a boring recitation of self-help checklists and how-to-succeed in business rules.


Shiels’ Ferris Bueller/James Bond antics are often over the top, but it’s a great ride and never without a laugh.

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