There is more to a good show than just a good singer or actor. Numerous people in the entertainment industry are often overlooked, but the Mercury is out to celebrate them.
If you’ve ever seen some decent live entertainment in Wollongong, or a musical in Sydney or the Shoalhaven Entertainment Centre, you’ve probably come across Sharon Twigg.
In July she completed 49 sold out shows in 15 days with The Wiggles on their regional tour of Victoria, before jetting home to work with Pink and Katy Perry.
She’s toured (and partied) with a number of Australia’s top rock bands of the ‘80s, handled copious amounts of cash and dished out princess wands at Disney On Ice.
“[I get recognised] a lot and in all different places,” she laughed. “I might be working in Canberra and they’ll say ‘I bought one off you at Qudos Arena at Homebush’ and they also say it to my husband too – he does it part time.”
Twigg is not a scalper, nor security, nor someone dealing in illegal narcotics – but the face who will happily hand you a little memento from a show, a piece of memorabilia like a t-shirt, mug or scented candle.
“U2 years ago had condoms,” she said. “We took just over $100,000 on one stand – it was a stinking hot day and the shirts were being delivered still hot from the printers. The cash was being collected in large t-shirt boxes – that’s all people paid with in those days.”
Being a merchandise manager has afforded Twigg a life many can only dream of – “a paid plane ticket, hire car waiting, catering backstage with performers, nice accommodation”.
But it has had its ups and downs, like being left behind in Mildura in north-west Victoria whilst on tour with the Choirboys.
Sharon and “door girl” Wendy woke to find the surrounds of their motel were very quiet. They were supposed to head to the next city on a truck with the crew who clearly didn’t get the memo.
“They wouldn’t have realised until they got to Adelaide that we weren’t there,” she said. “The band said ‘you can’t fit in our car’, as they had five band members and it was just a sedan. They laughed, they’re like ‘haha I wonder how long it’d take before the chicks got left behind’ – but they’re lovely guys the Choirboys.”
Another time, another tour and a different band – Sharon returned to her accommodation to find an ambulance taking someone away. It was just an overdose, no big deal.
“That’s just what happened in the ‘80s,” Twigg said.
For the record – that musician ended up being fine.
And then there was that Metallica concert where patrons kept running out of the Sydney Entertainment Centre and vomited in front of the merchandise stand.
The first taste of the industry was in 1984 selling t-shirts for Jon English, because Twigg was dating his sound technician. Two years later the then travel agent lost her job when her employer went bust, so she took the bull by the horns and has never looked back.
In 1997 Twigg and her husband Geoffrey moved south to Wollongong, just at the time a new stadium was being completed.
“They were building the Entertainment Centre and it was almost finished, so I told my boss in Sydney, and he went for the contract – so then I ran [the merchandise] for them down here,” she said.
Bob Dylan was the opening concert for the Illawarra’s then premier venue on September 5, 1998 and Twigg was there. Twenty years later Bob Dylan returned on August 20 to celebrate the milestone, and Twigg was also there.
“It takes a long time to get known [in this industry],” she said. “Even with The Wiggles, they just don't take on everybody, it’s a big thing to work with them.”
There’s a version of Twigg in each other state, and they know each other and sometimes cross paths.
It’s hard to believe a part-time job selling t-shirts has lead this woman to a long and lasting career, with her adult sons now dipping their toes into the “family business”.
“The whole family gets involved,” she laughed. “The boys have been hanging around since they were little – they’re both doing some of that sort of work too now.”
Life in the music biz has taken Sharon to places she’d only dreamed. She’s met some amazing people and even got to ride in the cockpit of a plane when it landed in Perth after the pilots realised there was a rock band on board.
But these days, if Sharon wants to really enjoy a show – she’ll just buy a ticket.
Behind The Curtains continues next Wednesday.