By Hope Katz Gibbs
Be Inkandescent Magazine
Ruth Sklaroff saw her dream come true before she passed away last year. She booked an MTV commercial, thanks to George Bettinger’s Acting Class for Seniors, based in Pembroke Pines, FL.
Each Tuesday at 10 a.m., 49-year-old Bettinger hosts a jam-packed class that meets at The South West Focal Point Center. His workshop, for senior actors and actresses, pulls in wannabe stars and starlets ranging in age from 60 to 90.
“They began being inhibited and shy, but we bring the best out in them and now they love performing,” explains Bettinger, who teaches his students what he calls the ‘A to Zs on how to audition and book work.’ “Once they get the hang of it, you can’t stop them from being successful. It just happens.”
In fact, another student appeared as an extra in “Burn Notice,” which is filmed in Miami. And yet another was called back last month to audition for a TV pilot.
Polishing the Stars
“Helping these folks is the least I can do,” says the 25-year veteran of TV and radio commercials, who is perhaps best known for being the red M&M. “My class helps to get them up and moving, and out of their shells. I’m never as amazed at what they can do as they are. I simply tell them, there are 900 channels on TV. Now is your time to shine.”
And shine they do.
“George gave me a new lease on life,” says Fred Lamb, 67, of Pembroke Pines. “His class makes me want to get out of bed in the morning.”
“I always wanted to do this,” says Marvin Portney of Cooper City, who since taking Bettinger’s class has mastered the ukulele—an instrument he always admired, but never picked up before signing up for Bettinger’s program.
That’s not all.
Seniors also make merry on Bettinger’s radio show, “The Mom & Pop Shop,” which airs daily (except Saturday) at 4 p.m. EST (1 p.m. PDT) on www.hotmix106.com.
In fact, one fiftysomething gal in Ireland is now dating a man from New York City, thanks to a chance meeting that turned into romance after they connected online during the radio show.
“Fans and friends gather on Facebook as the show airs, and I receive hundreds of posts per show,” he explains, noting that the hour-long broadcast is an entertaining mixture of classic and rare hits, and features zany comedy skits with his unusual character impersonations. “The beauty of the show is that it links nostalgia with the immediacy of the Internet. It’s incredible.”
What’s more, Bettinger, who is also a bit of a film historian, charms his guests with his knowledge about the golden age of show business.
Show biz is a topic he knows well.
In 1982, George created Movie Magic, a TV series he wrote, produced, and hosted in New York City from 1982 to 1987.
Soon after, he began producing and directing corporate training films for companies such as Pfizer, Hoffman LaRoche, The Cancer Institute, and Maimonides Medical Center.
It was cartoons that turned him on, though.
In fact, Soupy Sales once noted: “George makes my think of myself when I was young.”
“That makes me so happy,” says Bettinger, “because guys like Soupy and Tiny Tim were my heroes growing up. Having the opportunity to meet them, much less perform beside them, was a dream come true. That’s why I love working with the seniors. I feel that if I can help them make their dreams come true, my work will be complete.”
If you are 60 or over, and live in South Florida, sign up for Bettinger’s class, and most definitely log onto his show. For more information, contact him via email at Georgebettinger7@gmail.com.