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TEI Entertainment’s John McEntee Connects Celebrity Performers With Corporate Clients

John McEntee isn’t just planning a simple 50th anniversary reunion for his Brea Olinda High School.

“Hopefully, it will be the reunion of all time,” McEntee said. “I cannot imagine anyone would have a better reunion.”

The 300 attendees at the Sept. 16 event will be treated to 50 years of rock, pop and R&B classics from performers including Chicago’s longtime lead singer Jason Scheff, Kool and the Gang’s former lead singer Skip Martin and the Romantics’ Wally Palmer.

McEntee isn’t just any reunion organizer.

He’s the founder and chief executive of Anaheim-based TEI Entertainment, which produces celebrity-studded entertainment events for many Fortune 500 companies, including Re/Max Worldwide, Deloitte, Bank of America and Marriott International.

In August, TEI provided the music for Hot August Nights, an annual fundraising event hosted by Irvine-based security giant Allied Universal CEO Steve Jones and his wife, Stacy, at their Coto de Caza home.

The event, which was organized by Charity Coach Inc.,  raised a record $1.9 million for Vera’s Sanctuary, a program of The Teen Project that serves young women who have survived human trafficking and homelessness. This year’s event featured pop and R&B singer Jason Derulo.

McEntee also represents a variety of performers like singer Matt Mauser and Dustin Tavella, a winner of America’s Got Talent Season 16. He negotiated a $100 million contract for ventriloquist and America’s Got Talent winner Terry Fator to perform in Las Vegas.

His phone directory includes direct dials to scores of famous entertainers such as Billy Joel, Michael Bublé, Stevie Nicks, John Stamos, Jay Leno and Mike Love of the Beach Boys.

“John is classy, easy to work with,” said Dean Torrence of the 1960s rock duo Jan and Dean, who is performing at the Brea reunion.

“John gets very creative and figures out how to please more of the demographics than normal by having singers from different decades. That was brilliant. I sing three songs with the cover band. If the audience doesn’t like one genre, there’s another. Everyone’s happy.”

Fluke Beginning

McEntee says his career began as a “fluke” in the early 1970s, when he’d host parties offering all the beer you could drink for $3 a person.

One summer at a restaurant and bar on the Colorado River in Parker, Ariz., he arranged to bring a band from Orange County to provide entertainment.

“I told the manager that we’ll keep the entrance fees, and you get all the bar sales,” he recalled.

He cleared $2,700 in nine days in 1974.

“It was more than my father made in a whole month. I found my calling.”

He was able to convince WR Grace Corp., a company that then owned 160 restaurants including Houlihan’s and Charley Brown, to be its exclusive supplier of entertainment.

“That’s how I learned to build shows,” he said. “It was an amazing cash cow.”

That’s Entertainment

McEntee moved onto arranging entertainment for state and county fairs that featured stars like Rod Stewart. In the 1990s, he added corporations that wanted pop stars for their parties. He expanded to Las Vegas to offer entertainment in casinos.

Nowadays, TEI, an acronym for That’s Entertainment International, arranges about 2,000 small shows a year, such as dueling piano players at Las Vegas casinos or the entertainment at restaurants like Javier’s and Maestros.

McEntee also each year organizes about 50 big shows—those costing $500,000 and up—such as birthday and New Year’s Eve parties with some of the world’s biggest names, whom he declined to publicly reveal.

Such events have included a notable celebrity who recently celebrated his birthday with a $5 million party by renting out an entire hotel in Cabo San Lucas, he said.

McEntee built his business to eight employees and subcontracts out catering and other services.

“It’s a lot better than employing 100 or 200 under one roof because you might have a slow month.”

Consigliere Plans

The company prides itself on a “consigliere’s approach.”

“A lot of people are nervous about hiring celebrities. We tell them, ‘Here’s the deal: You tell us what time you want the artist on, and we’ll make sure it happens. You don’t worry about the stage, the lights, the sound. We take care of everything.’”

While some stars have a reputation for falling apart onstage or missing a show, he says “it rarely happens.”

His favorite performer is Sugar Ray lead singer Mark McGrath, who will be performing at the Brea reunion.

“Mark is hands down the best per pound entertainer that you’ll ever get for your money. Charismatic, high energy. God, we love working with him.”

The Reunion Gig

McEntee is promoting the Brea-type reunion as one of his company’s offerings—a single show where several stars perform a couple of their hit songs while being backed by an eight-piece cover band.

McEntee, a 1973 graduate of Brea Olinda High School, got together with his high school friend Corey Leyton, a semi-retired financing entrepreneur, to underwrite the reunion that would normally cost about $200,000.

“I grew up with these people,” McEntee said. “It was a great time. Brea was like Happy Days meets Mayberry. It was the greatest town to grow up in. You didn’t lock your doors.

You rode your bike everywhere.

“We’re all on the back nine,” McEntee said. “This is the last time. Instead of coming to my funeral, come and have a good time. I said, ‘Let’s make this the party of all parties.’”

The Secrets to Hiring a Star for Your Party

John McEntee has seen every mistake made when individuals want to book celebrities for their parties.

For example, an older host who is paying for the party might want somebody traditional, like Dionne Warwick, performing at an outdoor venue where young people will be in attendance as well.

“Attendees would be bored with ballads,” he noted.

“I will talk people out of bad shows. I help guide them to not booking the wrong thing.”

The CEO of Anaheim’s TEI Entertainment can advise hosts what stars want in their dressing rooms and how much they charge for private parties—such as Aerosmith, about $1.6 million, or Adele, $3 million to $4 million. An extra $25,000 might bring out an oldie-but-goodie star for a couple songs.

He can track down any song sought by a customer, pulling out a book that lists every song from 1955 to 2018.

McEntee keeps up with the music industry by tracking popularity on Spotify, showing how Beyonce has 50 million monthly listeners while Usher has 27 million and Rod Stewart has 11 million.

“It’s all about the repeat business. If the clients know you’re not gouging them and doing everything you can, they keep coming back.”

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