DBA – Speakers and Entertainers

In 1987, Damon Brooks Associates was established to match celebrities with non-profit organizations. Based in Hollywood, California, DBA developed a professional network of contacts and a specialized database of celebrity interests which assists in offering a comprehensive and professional service This information was to later become instrumental in the development of our disabilities division.

At the time of the advent of the Americans with Disabilities Act, several personalities with a dis ability sought out the organization to assist them in securing speaking and entertaining engagements. It is this building block and support from the disabilities community which enabled DBA to establish the only comprehensive disability awareness resource featuring exclusively those who have a disability and who speak and entertain professionally.

The research is on-going and the network continues to expand. In addition, DBA is committed to remain active in the community with support for the Media Access Committee of the California Governor’s Committee on the Employment of People with Disabilities and are present at the President’s Committee on the Employment of People with Disabilities, at the Association on Higher Education and Disabilities (AHEAD) conferences, and with many other local, state, and national advocacy organizations. Here is a partial list of entertainers and speakers that can be contacted thru DBA.

Bruce Jenner

As “The World’s Greatest Athlete” and winner of the Olympic Gold Medal for the Decathlon in 1972, few knew that Bruce was dyslexic. With academics a problem, he turned to athletics to achieve excellence. He has never looked back. He continues to be a much sought after speaker with collegiate and corporate audiences as he combines stories of his struggle with dyslexia and his athletic successes.

Art Metrano

As a stand-up comic and character actor, Art is best known as Lt. Mauser in all of the Police Academy movies. Art broke his neck during a home-repair project and he has dedicated his life to addressing spinal cord injuries and helping people through rehabilitation. His spirit is celebrated in a play which he wrote and stars in called ‘Twice Blessed. One college administrator praised his performance as the best he has seen in ten years

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Geri Jewell

Known to millions as Cousin Geri on the NBC sitcom The Facts of Life, Geri was the first disabled person to become a television series regular. As well as being an exceptional actress and comedienne, she is also a moving and powerful motivational speaker Her keynote addresses which concentrate on social attitudes regarding the disabled, human diversity and ability have taken her from corporate and college settings to the White House

Brett Leake

Brett is the only comedian with a disability to make four appearances on The Tonight Show. His muscular dystrophy does not prevent him from accepting 275 other engagements at comedy clubs, college campuses and corporate functions.

Nancy Beck Kennedy

As a trained comedian, Nancy was a natural for the role of Helen on The Louis Anderson Show. Nancy became a quadriplegic as the result of a broken neck suffered in an automobile accident. Her disability brings a new dimension to her acting, comedic, and public speaking talents.

Kathy Buckley

Nominated three times by the American Comedy Awards for “Funniest Female Comedian”. Kathy has also won national accolades for her motivational and inspirational speeches. Kathy addresses the many emotional and physical issues which have affected her life, and is one of our most sought after speakers and performers for collegiate and corporate programs.

Michael Gogin

4’2″ Mike Gogin is short in stature but delivers a big sound as a professional musician and speaker. His music is pop/rock with folk overtones. As a working actor, he has recently appeared in Sliders, Coach and many other recent productions. Michael also presents a dynamic training program called “Valuing Differences”, a presentation on disabilities and employment that is both informative and entertaining.

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Alex Valdez

20 years ago, Alex became the first comedian with a disability to gain national media attention. His well seasoned humor compliments his program which presents key points for success in every day living. As a Latino, he often integrates the themes of cultural diversity and sensitivity to minority issues into his routines.

Gene Mitchener

As a child, Gene wanted to make people laugh. Born with a rare form of muscular dystrophy, he put the stereotypes of a “cripple” behind him and became what People Magazine once described as “America’s: Funniest Sit-Down Comic.” Gene has faced many physical barriers but remains today as one of the most motivational and humorous presenters. His program on how to apply humor to the most difficult problems. “When Things Get Heavy, Lightn’ Up!” has won him standing ovations and praises from all audiences

Tony Melendez

Born with no arms. Tony became an instant celebrity when he was invited to play his guitar and sing for Pope John Paul II. He continues his musical career as a recording artist and appears on college campuses nationwide. Tony’s message in word and song puts personal confidence above his ability. A deeply spiritual performer, he frequently integrates his faith into his music.

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Tony DeBlois

In March of 1997. CBS television aired Journey of the Heart, a movie about Tony DeBlois. Born autistic and blind, his skills as a pianist have won him prestigious internationally recognition. As a magna cum laude graduate from Berklee School of Music, his talents have been captured on National Public Broadcasting, Voice of America, and during his many concerts. Tony also welcomes the opportunity to talk with his audiences.

Many people with a disability are finally receiving their recognition as actors. Combining their acting skills with an advocacy for those with a disability, many actors are willing to share their craft and employment opportunities. Depending upon your needs, DBA can assist in creating concepts for your specific programs.

Many actors and entertainers in Hollywood have a disability and are able to address the issues, however; because of career commitments they are only able to accept speaking engagements on a limited basis. Several of the more visible personalities are:

Marlee Matlin • Rod Steiger •Jonathan Winters • Phyllis Frelich • Dick Cavett • Tony Dow • Chris Templetton • Lou Ferrigno • Chris Fonseca • Chris BurkeRobert David Hall

DBA provides a broad range of talent for a variety of needs. The following are a few more speakers that companies, colleges or any organization can choose:

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Gloria Lenhoff

Gloria has Williams syndrome. Despite the inability to master many daily tasks, she possesses a magnificent musical talent so often identified with those who have Williams syndrome. She is an accomplished singer and accordion player and her concerts have won national acclaim from critics and general audiences. She frequently talks with audiences about her disorder as part of her program.

Jason Kingsley/Mitchell Levitz

Co-author’s of the best selling book “Count Us In: Growing up with Down Syndrome.” Jason and Mitchell have toured the country and won acclaim for their talents and academic achievements. They both maintain independent living status and maintain full time work positions. Each speaks to adult and student audiences about their accomplishments as they defy the stereo types of those with Down syndrome.

Girard Sagmiller

Girard is the author of “Dyslexia: My Life”, a real life look at what it is to grow up with a learning disability. Despite having been diagnosed as mentally retarded (as are so many with a learning disorder) he has obtained a Master’s Degree and has been employed with a Fortune 500 company. Girard frequently speaks and lectures to students and professionals and is involved in training workshops.

Michael Lee

Blind since the age of 13. Michael uses humor to break down the barriers between him as an educator and his audiences. Along with his dog Miguel, he delivers a comedy routine which helps able-bodied audiences to see what he sees, to feel what he feels, and know what he knows. He is a proud father of a young daughter and it is that pride which is generated in each presentation whether it is to school children, college students, parents, or corporations.

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