(Mirror) Long before he founded the LGBT TV network Logo, Matt Farber dreamed of getting into the entertainment business. Farber has vivid memories of his childhood. While he was still young, his family moved from Brooklyn to Monsey, in the outer New York City suburbs.
At the time, the hamlet was also home to one of the largest enclaves of Hasidic and Orthodox Jews in the nation, perhaps second only to his birthplace.
His mother was a natural musician who played the piano by ear and could pound out nearly any request perfectly. Farber’s younger sister would go on to earn a master’s degree in music and practice music therapy. His father, well, was probably most skilled at playing the radio, while young Matt was obsessed with music, television and pop culture. Like most young LGBT people, he knew he was different, but struggled with his sexual orientation.
“I had a tough time accepting it and fought it until I was 29,” he recalled. “Growing up a suburban Jew, there were cultural expectations of me. It was the ‘70s and ‘80s and that was a different time.”
Farber eventually left New York to study finance and accounting at the University of Pennsylvania’s elite Wharton School of Business, but never quite outgrew his love of music. After graduating, he knew he would have to make a choice.
“I was still obsessed with music, so I was simultaneously interviewing at investment banks and knocking on the doors of record companies, looking for opportunities. On some level, I knew I was gay and Wall Street didn’t feel like a safe path at the time,” he said.
He landed his first job as the marketing director at a local Philadelphia radio station, the first of a whirlwind nine jobs in seven years. From there, he moved to a local television station before heading to a larger radio station in Atlanta.
“That job put me on the path to programming and developing content. The radio station in Atlanta wasn’t successful and I had ideas about how it could be,” Farber said. “I became the head of programming, ratings doubled and that got me started on a content career in entertainment.”
A stint at one of the largest Top 40 radio stations in the country in Washington, D.C. then led to a job working for the legendary recording mogul Clive Davis at Arista Records in Manhattan.
“I was his ‘apprentice’ for lack of a better word,” Farber said. “That job was kind of like getting an M.B.A. in the music business at the height of the Whitney Houston era and the Milli Vanilli scandal.”
Farber discovered that the ability to seamlessly move from the business side to the creative side of his endeavors and back again would prove to be his greatest professional strength.
“Clive Davis taught me how valuable it was to understand every aspect of the business. A successful executive must operate at 50 thousand feet in the big picture and also communicate in the weeds. If our creative side is left-brained and business is right, he moved comfortably left and right and up and down,” Farber explained. “That was a skill I admired.”
Then Farber landed his dream job as the head of music programming for MTV, responsible for the music videos and VJs. As a teen, he had spent every spare minute watching the groundbreaking cable network that was now beginning a transformation from a music video channel to a youth lifestyle format. He described his role for the next seven years as an “intrapreneur,” charged with developing and operating complementary businesses that could sustain MTV’s music brand, including the launch of MTV2, MTV.com and an MTV radio network.
He admitted, “I was a workaholic.”
Eventually, Farber moved to the West Coast with his then-husband. He served as the CEO of a music industry dot com when the idea for Logo finally hit him. He decided to incubate it inside Viacom, the parent company of MTV, where he had worked for eight years. He spent the next three years as a consultant developing the business and creative plan while tirelessly pitching it to senior management.
“There were so many times that the plug was about to be pulled because it was deemed too risky or corporate politics got in the way. If it were today, I don’t think I’d have the persistence and tenacity I did at the time,” Farber said.
Farber stepped aside shortly before launch when he realized it would be hard to be a “nanny” for something he felt he birthed, especially when he questioned the content plan his new parents at Viacom suggested.
“My name is forever attached to Logo as founder, so I want it to be successful,” he said with a slight tone of disappointment.
After nearly a decade as a media consultant, Farber is again producing entertainment, this time as the founder of the Outlandish performance series. A sold-out season in Fort Lauderdale two years ago led Farber to expand his series to Palm Springs last year and Provincetown this summer.
Outlandish returns January with eight shows, including the South Florida debut by Fran Drescher (“The Nanny”) and returning fan favorites Coco Peru, Pam Ann and Leslie Jordan (“Sordid Lives”). He’s also managing several acts including Miss Richfield 1981, sexy cirque troupe AirOTic and the cabaret duo Lee Squared, a Liberace and Peggy Lee tribute act.
“It’s hard for me to turn off, but a little bit of healthy anxiety keeps me motivated and on my toes. I think I’ve gone from being a type A+ to an A-,” Farber chuckled.
When he’s home in South Florida, he enjoys spending time with his husband, serving on the board of the Pride Center and running with the Frontrunners—at least until the next show.
2019 Outlandish Performance Series
MISS RICHFIELD 1981 - "GENDER FLUIDS"
Saturday, March 9, 8 p.m.
She's back! In her all-new show, "Gender Fluids," Miss Richfield 1981, a Fort Lauderdale favorite, will attempt to find non-binary answers to our increasingly complex world and celebrate all the genders—both old and new.
COCO PERU - "HAVE YOU HEARD?"
Saturday, March 23, 8 p.m.
Whether you’re a devoted fan or if you're a Coco virgin, come see why Lily Tomlin called Miss Coco Peru, "one of the last great storytellers." Experience the trailblazing Queen who elevated drag—all while wearing sensible heels.
LEE SQUARED: AN EVENING WITH LIBERACE & MISS PEGGY LEE
Saturday, April 6, 2019, 8 p.m.
In this funny and touching tribute, to Liberace and Peggy Lee, New York City Bistro and MAC Award-winners David Maiocco and Chuck Sweeney reprise their iconic performances as the music legends who defined four decades of music and pop culture.
For more information and tickets for the 2019 Outlandish performance series at the Sunshine Cathedral, 1480 S.W. 9thAve. in Fort Lauderdale, go to OutlandishFL.com.