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Grey's Day at UB

  Grey's Day at UB

  Students like Anna Lavatelli packed the Center for the Arts green room to speak with Brad Grey. Many wanted to learn how to break into show business.

  Photo by Nancy J. Parisi

Introduced as "Dr. Brad Grey" after receiving an honorary SUNY doctorate in humane letters earlier in the afternoon, the Hollywood producer spoke to a packed student audience in the Screening Room of the Center for the Arts on March 27.

During his one-hour Q&A session, Grey recounted his path from Buffalo to Hollywood and in the process told the students how they might make their way to the entertainment industry. "Find your passion," he implored. "Passion is everything. It has motivated all my energies. Donít confuse passion with success. Donít be ashamed of failure. You can learn more through the losses. And donít listen when youíre told it canít be done."

Grey recalled his "insatiable appetite" for entertainment as a youngster watching The Ed Sullivan Show and The Honeymooners with his grandfather. "Seeing how these shows created laughter and emotion made this a very noble pursuit," he noted.

He screened a vintage 1978 clip from the local AM Buffalo TV show in which he appeared as a bushy-haired student along with an equally young stand-up comic named Bob Saget whom he had booked into a local club operated by Harvey Weinsteinís concert promotion company.

The presentation was prefaced by a highly emotional clip from the final episode of last seasonís The Sopranos in which Carmela confronts Tony about his adulterous ways. Grey referred to it as "one of the best scenes weíve ever done; as elegant and pure as you can get."

Much of the question-and-answer segment with the audience concentrated on his landmark series. He told of the rocky path to The Sopranosí success. (He planted the idea of his favorite movie, The Godfather, as a possible series to creator David Chase.) He also fielded the question of the recent tiff between HBO and star James Gandolfiniís refusal to return to the show until Grey stepped in to resolve the issue. ("We wouldnít have continued the show without Jimmy.") A number of students questioned if he advocated dropping out of college to pursue a dream. Grey emphatically replied, "The years that I spent in college I developed as a person. I figured out who I was. Itís not just about academics. Itís all part of growing up."

The producer, accompanied by his family, said he thoroughly enjoyed his return to the school after nearly 25 years. The young audience was very responsive. Each attendee was presented with a Sopranos tote bag filled with DVDs of the alumnusís film and TV productions.

As part of his visit to Buffalo, Grey and his family visited the Anchor Bar, reportedly so his kids could have "real" Buffalo chicken wings. He also took his family to see his student-days apartment on Minnesota Avenue and visited Niagara Falls as well. ĖJ.B.

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