Pierre Cossette is one of nature's true creative forces. Born in the working class town of Valleyfield, Quebec, he moved to Pasadena, California with his family at a young age. His father pumped gasoline while his mother ran a small apartment house and Pierre, using his budding impresario skills, booked Red Skelton to play a show at his high school.
Pierre Cossette is the spirit, soul, and heart of the Grammy Awards and one of the greatest showmen of the past century. With a sparkle in his eye Cossette has become one of the most enduring treasures in the show business he loves.
After graduation from the University of Southern California, Pierre Cossette landed a job as a booking agent for Music Corporation of America (MCA), working with bands like Harry James and His Orchestra and entertainers including Jack Benny, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis and Spike Jones to promote their concert dates on the college circuit. Soon he was booking major talent including Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, and Judy Garland into the hotels and casinos in Las Vegas, Reno and Lake Tahoe. Cossette served as personal manager for Ann-Margaret, Vic Damone, Dick Shawn, and Rowan & Martin. After booking Las Vegas casinos for MCA, Cossette went out on his own, founding Dunhill Records. The successful record label launched careers for well-known artists including The Mamas and Papas, Ann-Margret, Three Dog Night, Steppenwolf and Johnny Rivers.
Cossette sold Dunhill Records and plunged headlong into the next adventurous phase of his career, television producer. Pioneering a brand new first-run syndication industry, he began by producing Johnny Mann's Stand Up and Cheer for the CBS owned and operated stations. He then added The Andy Williams Show, The Glen Campbell Show, Sammy Davis' Sammy and Company, Salute, starring Dick Clark and the successful five-year run of ShaNaNa.
"You have to have a good eye to be a producer, you have to have a good ear, and you have to have a lot of confidence."
With a mix of confidence, drive, enthusiasm and an element of risk that has marked his career, Pierre got a 'crazy' idea in 1970 that a live broadcast of the Grammy Awards might make good television. Network television wasn't buying. Afraid of 'longhairs with their earrings, spike heels and makeup', ABC directed Cossette to get Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra or Andy Williams to host the show. If he could do that, they'd put it on the air. "I thought the Grammy TV show sounded like a great idea", said Williams, "but Pierre didn't tell me at the time that he had to get Frank or Dean or me to have a show. He certainly didn't tell me I was third on the list." Andy Williams hosted the first seven broadcasts.
Cossette took a hands-on approach to the Grammy's. The first year Pierre went out on Hollywood Boulevard and hustled passers-by into the Hollywood Palladium to ensure he had a full audience. The Grammy's have moved from the Palladium to Madison Square Garden and now the Staples Center and filling the seats is no problem any more. The Grammy's have grown from a modest telecast to an arena-sized institution and Pierre Cossette has been there every step of the way. Today the Grammy telecast is shown in 166 countries and pulls an estimated audience of 700 million.
After thirty-five successful years, Pierre Cossette stepped down as Executive Producer this year, handing the reins of the successful show to his son, John.
After garnering praise and awards including a Tony, a Grammy, an Emmy and a prestigious Publicist Guild of America Showman of the Year Award, will he retire? Not a chance.
"Mr. Grammy" is pursuing one of his greatest passions, producing shows in New York. In 1989, Cossette obtained the life-story rights to the legendary humorist, Will Rogers. He developed the project and brought the Tony Award winning musical, Will Rogers Follies to Broadway. Other productions include Tommy Tune Tonite, The Scarlet Pimpernel and The Civil War. Currently in development is a musical, The Woody Guthrie Story.
Cossette and his wife Mary share their time between homes in New York, Beverly Hills, Palm Springs and St. Anicet, Quebec.
His philosophy is simple, "There's one premium, and that's talent - that's what makes the industry go 'round. If you forget that, then there's no reason to be in show business."
In an industry where failure and rejection are part of business as usual, Cossette remains upbeat and optimistic, preferring to look at his success as a function of his ability to approach entertainment as fun. At eighty-one, it's clear he's still chasing dreams and having fun.
Pierre Cossette founded Dunhill Records. He was the brains behind the idea of hosting the Grammy's as a live television awards show.
For thirty-five years he was the Executive Producer for the Grammy's and has just recently stepped down.