Miracles: An Epic of Transformation
Copyright 1999, Rex Ballard
PCs and Theater, the early years
After spending several years learning the complexities of managing a theater, and theatrical production, Rex returns to the world of technology and business.
Media, Video, and Business
By the time I started my third year at Loretto Heights college, I had been carrying 18 hour loads for 5 semesters, enough to make me a senior at the end of my Junior Semester. I was given a job at the media center. In addition to delivering and setting up VCRs, Projectors, and various audio visual equipment, I was given the project of setting up a video production console. We had been able to obtain some surplus equipment. A couple of mixers, a couple of video tape recorders, and a few video cameras. I was also able to set up a simple intercomm system. In a few weeks, I was able to create a full-blown video production studio. It was black-and-white, but it was capable of doing the job.
Video Producer - Running the Show
I took on creating some video productions from the director's classes. We were all creating from scratch and making it up as we went along. I had read some books on video production, and had worked up some techniques to quickly get the cuts and views desired from a 3-camera studio onto video tape. In addition, it was possible to electronically edit the video tape by copying section of desired scenes to the other recorders in sequence. By the end of the semester, I had been able to create 5 videos, each of a 30 minute scene.
This was also the year that I shared a room with Bruce Rux. Bruce was very talented as an actor, with a very low bass voice and a combination of mischief and maturity that created magic with audiences. Not only could he do drama, but he could keep an audience laughing with even material like "Ceasar and Cleopatra". I directed him in a couple of scenes and he quickly became a "Star". He ended up with roles in nearly every single show produced while he was a student there. Most of the actors who worked with me in scenes became "hot properties" at the schools. By the end of the semester, I had gained a reputation as an outstanding director. The actors especially wanted to work with me because I had a way of creating the scene, bringing out what was best in them (often contrary to their perception of themselves), then I would encourage them to "play". By the time they got on stage or in front of the camera, the were no longer actors, but entertainers.
When Life hands you Lemons, Make Lemonade!Unfortunately, I had to leave Loretto Heights College. My father drank my tuition money. Rather than let this be a crushing blow, I registered for classes at Arapahoe Community College. ACC had an outstanding business program for a community college, tuition was very cheap, it was close, and they also had a video production studio. I knew that I would somehow return to Loretto Heights College, so I registered for pure Business Courses and a Video Production course. I took courses in business law, economics, applied business management, and marketing.
Getting Into Computers - 1977.In addition, I made friends with several students who were taking computer programming. I had been reading about Microcomputers in ham radio magazines. I was fascinated by computers and had learned enough about BASIC to write simple programs. I started helping friends complete their BASIC assignments. The instructor was intrigued by his students' unusual solutions. Out of ignorance, I was coming up with very elegant solutions that required less code (perhaps because microcomputer BASIC programs had to fit in as little as 2k of RAM).
The Rise before the Fall.I also got the lead in the school play. It was called the Cave-Dwellers, and I played the King. Many of the actors were also into parapsychology and psychic phenomena. I quickly made friends with the entire cast, and fell in love with Connie Mohr. I was so bashful that my best friend in the cast - Joe Merrick, actually had to tell me to kiss Connie. I was a 21 year-old virgin and Connie was 18 and somewhat experienced. She made the first time magical and very romantic. I proposed, and we were engaged to be married when I completed college.
Eventually, she realized that being engaged to an unemployed actor was probably not a good idea. I was turning into a drunk, and couldn't get back to college. My life was getting way too dramatic, and I wasn't really looking like a good candidate for the "ideal husband". She left the "Dear John Letter" on the windshield of my car. After stalking her for a week or so, she told me that she wanted a man who could buy her a sports car. She probably was psychic, and actually could see the turn my life was taking, and I wouldn't have wanted to go through that rough neighborhood either. Although I agreed to let her go her own way, and never saw her again and didn't hear from her for almost 33 years, she continued to have a special place in my heart.
I had finally reached the age where I could drink legally, but I wasn't drinking normally. I was drinking too much, too often, and was becoming unpredictible. At the same time, my father was having his trouble with booze. He ended up in treatment, getting a divorce, and I was unable to keep a job. I lost 4 jobs in 6 months, including working as a stage hand at a dinner theater, managing a radio shack I sold the first TRS-80 computer even before it was released. I had guessed that it would be something like the Commodore PET based on Microsoft's involvement.
Eventually, I needed to get help. I went to an outpatient program. They placed me in a half-way house until I could get and keep a stable job. They were ready to put me on SSI Disability, but I took a job as a stereo salesman. Something in my gut told me that if I didn't take the job, I would be "disabled" for a long time, perhaps the rest of my life.
The Road to Recovery.
went to the outpatient program 5 days a week for about 5 months. I would do 3-5 hours of group tharapy and then go to work selling stereos. The tharapy gave me a chance to sort out the traumas I had been through, and helped me face my drinking problem. In less than 3 months, Connie had left me, my father confessed to embezzling from a church, my brother had joined the army and tried to kill himself in boot camp, my 13 year old sister had gotten pregnant an had an abortion, and my mother had filed for divorce. Mom sold everything we owned for a fraction of it's value, and decided that I could not live with her and my sister. I had literally reached the point where I had been exploring sewers that could be used for sleeping.
It turned out that these traumas had been very good for me. I gave up drinking and drugging long before there was permanent damage, I started taking responsibility for myself, and I started getting a sense of self-worth as as salesman. In a matter of a few months, I went from selling $300/day to selling over $10,000/day, mostly in component stereos. I was also given the chance to sell the first VCRs. I was getting such a reputation that people were coming from all over the greater Denver area to purchase stereos from me. I did shave a few points, but more important was that I made sure that they were fully served, that their questions were answered, and that they were happy with their purchase. Often, I was actually getting more margin than the other discount chains and at higher prices.
I got to the point where I was earning enough that I could go back to Loretto Heights College and finish my degree. I also moved into my own apartment. I continued to work at LaBelle's selling stereos until late April. Right after I left LaBelles, I got a job working as an entertainer in a dinner theater. I also worked as a waiter before the show and at intermission. I got so good at "quip for tips" that I was making as more every day in tips than I made as an actor. It was enough to pay the down-payment on my final semester of tuition at Loretto Heights College.
My final semester was a bit rocky. I assumed that I could trust my new roommate as much as I had trusted Bruce Rux. It turned out that he was not trustworthy. That didn't turn out so well, and soon he was spreading all sorts of nasty rumors about me. He also went through my personal belongings and tried to blackmail me. Eventually, he moved into a room with his new boyfriend, I ended up with a Turkish roommate. Once I got to know him a bit, I liked him. I completed my degree quickly and quietly. The hardest blow of all was when Mu Phi Epsolon, a sorority that had named me an honorary member in my sophmore year, blackballed me. It turned out that one of the men dropped the black-ball.
When I left Loretto Heights college, I started working as a theater manager. I was working at Commonwealth theaters. It turned out that Commonwealth was restoring a theater that could be used for both films and live productions and they were hoping that I could manage that theater. Unfortunately, before the Paramount was opened, I was robbed at gunpoint. I was suspected of being involved until the robber was convicted over a year later. By that time, I was working for another theater chain.
In 1980, I decided I had enough of being a "starving actor", "theater manager", and wannabe director (play god). I began to explore new ways to exploit my natural talents more profitably.