Leadership / 07.19.22
Lenore Schwartz Heller’s Career in Ticketing Will Rock You
At 75 years of age, Lenore Schwartz Heller is technically retired, but she still works 60 to 70 hours a week when there is a show to be staged, and she loves every minute of it. Like so many others, Lenore fell into (and then fell in love with) ticketing but, in her case, much, much later in life.
Lenore with Dionne Warwick at Stamford Center for the Arts' Palace Theatre.
“I have had three careers,” she says. “I started out in the airline industry. I worked from ‘67 to ‘76 for TWA, and then from ‘77 to ‘84, I worked for Continental Airlines. The man who engineered the hostile takeover of Continental Airlines gave me my first job on Wall Street. I was on Wall Street until I was made redundant at my last position in 2014.”
Lenore in the uniform museum at the TWA Hotel at JFK Airport in April 2022.
By then, Lenore was already living in the leafy suburbs of Connecticut (a short commute from Manhattan) and had racked up some experience with the Stamford Center for the Arts, first as a volunteer and then as a part-time ticketing associate. That eventually led to her current full-time job as Box Office Manager.
Lenore in the ticket office.
“I call this my happy place,” she says. “I lucked into it, and it enables me to do all the extras that I might not have been able to do. I was set up for retirement but might not have been doing the traveling, going to the theater as much, or going out to dinner as much as this job enables me to do.”
Lenore sits in a chair left by Hobbits in New Zealand.
She says, “I am actually getting to meet some of the artists that I grew up listening to. I got to meet the band Chicago twice. I got to meet Earth, Wind & Fire and the Doobie Brothers. I love it. Air Supply was here, and I got to hang out with them for a little while and with their girlfriends … The first time I met Chicago, it was a meet and greet. I walked over to [founding member] Robert Lamm, and I said to him, ‘In 50 years, you guys never disappointed me.’ He looked at me and said, ‘That is the nicest thing anybody could ever say to us. Can I give you a hug?’ I was thrilled to pieces!”
Lenore with members of Chicago, including Robert Lamm to her immediate left, in September 2017.
Lenore with Graham Russell and Russell Hitchcock of Air Supply in October 2021.
Lenore and a colleague with members of Earth, Wind & Fire in 2018.
Lenore with B. David Whitworth of Earth, Wind & Fire in 2018.
Today, Lenore works with a small but dedicated staff, colleagues who she values for their “loyalty and veracity,” and a boss (President & CEO Michael E. Moran, Jr.) who “listens to me and values my opinion” (a quality Lenore treasures in all leaders). “In a leadership role you should be preparing the next generation to take the next step,” she says. “I think you need to encourage people to grow. [One of my previous bosses] always said, ‘Everybody should be looking to have my job.’ I think it is a great motto. It really encouraged people [and that is what I try to do, too] … encourage people to advance their careers.”
Lenore at a pre-COVID Paw Patrol meet and greet.
One might think that after such a long and varied career of her own, Lenore would be quick to list some of her greatest achievements when asked. Instead, she adopted a more philosophical attitude and said simply, “I think probably [just] getting through life.”
That life has had its ups and downs. “We had a lot of tragedy early in my life, and it made us close as a family,” she says. “My parents were married almost 65 years when my dad died. They had a very special marriage. They were the love of each other’s lives. They really didn’t need anybody other than each other to complete them.”
With that said, Lenore’s grandmother, who she calls a “very wise lady,” offered Lenore’s mother some sage advice. “The night before they got married, she said, ‘You have to have his friends, your friends and our friends, because unfortunately, one of you will die first.’ My grandmother also [encouraged them] to have a life together, not just [one that was] about the children, because if you do it right, your children will grow up and move out.”
Lenore says, “So my parents always had date nights. Even when they did not have the money to go out, they would get a babysitter for us, they would get in the car, and sometimes they would drive to a diner, then just sit and talk. I still hear them in my head a lot, and I still use their expressions all the time. They were wonderful role models.”
Lenore’s mom and dad, her mentors in life.
Years later, Arnold, the love of Lenore’s life, died after having a stroke in 2003. “It was the second marriage for both of us. We only had just short of 13 years together. He was the most amazing, encouraging, supportive man … I always wanted kids and unfortunately, by the time [I met Arnold], both of us were too old to think about starting a family.”
Lenore’s two loves; Arnold the week they got Clarence in 1994.
It is her memories that Lenore treasures most, memories of her mother and father and, in particular, her maternal grandfather.
“My grandfather was a Trotskyite in Russia; he was a socialist. He left Russia two steps ahead of the Czar's assassins and came into this country technically illegally, I'm sure, because he lied about his age to immigration. His baby brother emigrated to Mexico with Trotsky. I wish I knew more about them, but they did not talk about it because they had become Americans, and so they did not talk about Russia much.”
She says, “On Sundays, my grandfather used to have the Mets on television while he was listening to the opera. He would turn off the sound [for baseball] because he said you do not need anybody telling you what is happening on a baseball field; you can see it. He would listen to the opera while he was watching. The first piece of music that he introduced me to was Vesti La Giubba with Enrico Caruso singing. I must have been six or seven years old, and he said, ‘Now sit and listen.’ He said you can like any kind of music, but you have to appreciate all kinds of music.”
Lenore still loves listening to music and admits, “I would like to play the piano better” but concedes she does not practice enough. She also finds joy in curling up with a good book and says it used to drive her mother crazy when she would just go off and be alone with herself. But lately it has proven to be quite valuable.
“Sometimes I am too content [to be alone with myself]. I have been very lucky, and I am knocking on wood ... Part of the reason that I have not gotten COVID is because, during the pandemic, I was perfectly content to be working remotely. As soon as we were allowed to come into the theater, I understand I was the person that was in the theater the most, but I also have my own office, so I felt I was not being exposed to anybody else. I am perfectly comfortable to curl up with a book or watch a movie and stay home. I can be very solitary … It could be a beautiful day outside and I am inside, so it works both ways. It is a double-edged sword being that content to be with yourself.”
During the pandemic, like many other INTIX members, Lenore has faithfully joined the weekly Wednesday Wisdom calls. “I try so hard to plan my Wednesdays around them,” she says. “Every time I listen to the conversations, even though I mostly interact on the chat, it is a wealth of information, and it is a wealth of networking. I try very hard to use those resources and reach out to people who might know the answer [to a question]. If they do not know the answer, they will refer you to somebody who does … It is a community. There are times when you just are so down, and those Wednesday calls just bring you up.”
Lenore attended her first INTIX conference in 2017 in Baltimore. “The networking is beyond belief,” she says. “Every time I go to a conference, I learn something new. Every career I have had, I have fallen into that career, and I really do not have a whole lot of depth of knowledge [in ticketing]. This is the only theater I have ever worked at other than to volunteer as an usher, give out tickets or work in concessions. I know enough to know [what] I don't know. That depth of experience and that depth of knowledge that people who have been doing it for 20, 30, 40 years have, you cannot replace that. And again, that goes back to the networking.”
Lenore at INTIX in Baltimore.
And what has been her most memorable INTIX moment of all time? It was not a keynote or conference session, nor any of the parties that INTIX has been known to host. Instead, it was the way that her fellow INTIX members made her feel.
“Other than [my INTIX mentor] John [Harig], the first person who came over and included me when I kind of looked lost was Shawn Robertson. He made me [feel] welcome in a conversation with a whole bunch of people who I did not know. He introduced me around … It is one thing for your mentor to include you, but [it was special] for somebody that you have heard speak but you don't know to also include you in that little circle of people he was talking to.”
Lenore is looking forward to the next INTIX conference in Seattle (January 2023). In addition to doing more networking and making others feel welcome, she plans to visit a cousin who she has not seen in 50 years. “I have never met her daughter or grandchildren other than on Zoom.”
Despite her age, Lenore is still somewhat of an adventurer. After losing her husband, she went on an Arctic safari tour to see the beluga whales in northern Manitoba. She remains friends with her guide, a Mennonite who lives on a big piece of land near Winnipeg. She says she has thought about emigrating to be closer to her but recognizes how difficult that might be for a big city girl. “I am a New Yorker,” she says proudly. “I love it. I get an energy from New York. It is home. My husband used to say I walk differently when I am in the city. The only thing keeping me in Connecticut is this job, which I love … Most of my friends are still [in New York City], so we meet. It is a 45-minute train ride. It's nothing from here.”
It was in the Big Apple that Lenore experienced her most memorable live event. That event was a Queen + Adam Lambert concert at Madison Square Garden, her second most favorite venue. First on her list is Stamford’s own Palace Theatre “because of the emotional connection … and because it saved my life.”
The Queen concert “was the most amazing spectacle,” she says. “It's eye candy. It's ear candy. Two hours and 45 minutes without an intermission. I walked away and everybody walked away just wanting more. More of what you are seeing. More of what you are hearing. It is the best thing I have ever seen. There are no words to describe a Queen concert. And Adam Lambert is just outrageous, and he is wonderful.”
Continuing on the topic of popular music, Lenore says, “My favorite musician is going back to the Queen connection; it has got to be Brian May. My husband had an expression. He said the sexiest part of a woman's body is her brain. Brian May plays guitar, has a Ph.D. in astrophysics, does 3D/stereo photography, is an animal rights activist. Anybody who knows me is not going to be surprised at that answer,” she says, then laughs long and joyfully.
After a long and fruitful life with not one but three successful careers, what advice would Lenore give herself if she could go back in time?
“I would learn how to say ‘no’ earlier in life. My amazing boss at S. G. Warburg, well, we were UBS by then, taught me how to say no. And by that time, I must have been in my 40s … As a matter of fact, I was told recently in my review that I am a problem solver, and because I am a problem solver, people bring stuff to me that is not part of my job. And that I tend to overextend myself. I try very hard to say ‘not my job,’ but it is not in my DNA to say that. Again, this goes back to my parents. My father said, if you have a complaint, have a suggestion for a solution. He was a problem solver. He happened to own his own business, so he had to be a problem solver.”
Lenore’s “house” and “happy place” as viewed from the stage.
And if Lenore had three wishes today, what would they be?
“I would want my husband back and healthy. He had a stroke, so I would not want him back the way he was. I would want him back the way he was pre-stroke. I wish my sister were a happier person. My sister is bipolar and because of it has a tremendous, tremendous number of problems. I wish she was … more content. Happier with herself. And I would have liked to have had children. I would have liked to have had a secure marriage where I could bring children into the marriage. So, I guess I would have wanted to have met my [second] husband [Arnold] earlier in my life so that I could have had children.”
And, after three-quarters of a century, what has brought this “Golden Girl” the most joy in life?
“I struggle with this one,” she says. “I am truly, truly lucky that I am in a good place in my life. With all the bad that is going on in the world, there is just so much good about it. My mother always said you could count your true friends on one hand. I probably could go to a second hand to count my real true friends who I could depend on, and that includes a couple of my relatives who are just always there for me. I am happy in my own skin, and I guess that would be it.”
Being happy and bringing that happiness to others through her work in ticketing has brought vast benefits to Lenore’s life. It has offered opportunities to meet iconic musicians and splurge on trips, shows and restaurants. As well, it has given her a youthful glow, world-class grace and joie-de-vivre that is beyond compare. Or perhaps more simply put, like the rock anthem by Queen so famously says, Lenore, you are the champion, my friend.
You May Also Like
Want news like this delivered to your inbox weekly? Subscribe to the Access Weekly newsletter, your ticket to industry excellence.