Brian Winthrop was always interested in entertainment, production, and food. He first began helping stage events in 1969, as a student at Northfield Mt. Hermon School and also founded the Northfield Cooking Club of which he was the youngest and only male member.
During summers in the early 1970s, he worked at the Concord Hotel in Kiamesha Lake, NY. He worked as the chef at the pool by day and in twice a week in the evenings he broiled more than 2,000 New York strip steaks for steak night. Additionally, he was employed as an usher in the Imperial Room, which was then the world’s largest nightclub, providing seating for 3,500 people. Every evening, the Imperial Room hosted a main attraction comedian and a musical artist, including such high-profile celebrities as Don Rickles, Joey Bishop, Milton Berle, Alan King, Tony Bennett, Cab Calloway, Liza Minelli, and Barbara Streisand. On weekends after the main show, Winthrop managed the deli in the Night Owl Lounge, which featured the Erskine Hawkins Swing Band, composer of “Tuxedo Junction,” a major hit in the 1940s.
While attending Stony Brook University in the mid-1970s, Winthrop managed the Student Activity Board Lecture Series and produced several concerts. Productions included Carl Bernstein premiering “All the President’s Men,” comedian Robert Klein opening for jazz artist Jon Luc Ponty, and the multi-platinum disco band, Kool and the Gang.
His first job after college was with the New York Speakers Bureau. He, later on, represented a number of the 1960 radicals, including Jerry Rubin, Abbie Hoffman, Bobby Seale, and William Kunstler, for the presentation division of New Line Cinema.
In 1980, Winthrop and fellow agent Donny Epstein (Greater Talent Network) left New Line to found their own Epstein Winthrop International agency. The firm’s first client was G. Gordon Liddy, whom they booked at more than 200 colleges, after which Liddy received the National Association of Campus Activities’ Speaker of the Year Award. After buying Epstein out the following year, Winthrop founded Brian Winthrop International (BWI). At the same time, he founded Paradise Artists with his then partner, Tom Nielsen (Bright Sight Group).
Nielsen and Winthrop believed that Punk Music would follow the popularity of the New Wave music scene. They produced tours for the Dead Kennedy’s, and Circle Jerks, and managed and toured Bad Brains, Stimulators, and Pack Nine.
At the same time, BWI diversified and signed numerous prominent speakers that included Timothy Leary, Wally Amos, Shere Hite, Lisa Birnbach (The Official Preppy Handbook), Senator Birch Bayh, as well as then-comedian Senator Al Franken, Father Guido Sarducci, Garret Morris, David Brenner, and such performing artists as the Boston Chamber Music Society, The Boys Choir of Harlem, Zurcher Kammer Orchestra, and Frank Zappa, among others. Brian Winthrop was also associate producer of the film, Return Engagement, staring G. Gordon Liddy and Timothy Leary. In the film, he has a cameo with Arnold Schwarzenegger.
In 1983, BWI closed a $350K yearly sponsorship contract with Kodak touring a special event entitled Earthwalk, which would eventually tour 400 college campuses. Earthwalk featured 3,500 slides taken by the Walker Brothers, was narrated by Orson Welles and featured the music of Pink Floyd and the Allen Parsons Project. During this time BWI also started touring Wild Video Dance Party to universities, high schools, and military bases. WVDP combined current MTV music videos with a large video projection system, light show, and Bose surround sound system. Initially, WVDP was sponsored by Bose. More than four million students attended WVDP events at their respective schools! WVDP was featured in several Billboard articles and regularly listed its Top 20 Music Videos in the Billboard Charts. WVDP was so timely and successful that Winthrop sold the package to Coca-Cola, USA, in 1987 for a $2.5 million sponsorship. Also, Panasonic/RAMSA co-sponsored the tour by providing $1 million in equipment. As the firm tripled in size, BWI moved from event production in NYC at 1995 Broadway (Lincoln Center) to Stamford, Connecticut.
In 1984 Winthrop produced an Off-Broadway Show, entitled, Shades of Harlem, which had a two-year run at the Village Gate, before a European tour. In 1987, the Big Surf Drive-In Movie started touring colleges, universities, parks-and-recreation facilities as well as country clubs. To date, we have produced more than 4,000 Big Wave Drive-In Movies. New for 2016, Big Wave introduced a 3D version with glasses and surround sound.
In 1988, BWI purchased a Swiss laser system and Matt Winthrop, Brian’s brother, booked Lazer Zeppelin at theaters throughout the Northeast while co-producing the event with local AOR radio stations and Saturn V: The Laser Light Show at universities. Laser show bookings exceeded $.5 million annually.
In the 1990’s, WVDP entered the corporate market and was the closing-night entertainment event at the Pow Wow in Miami, the MPI National Convention in Chicago, two PCMA National Conventions in Scottsdale and Orlando, the Special Event Convention in Orlando and Miami, the NACE Convention in Chicago and the Event Solutions Convention in Washington, D.C. Corporate bookings for Wild Video Dance Party include five years in a row for the Microsoft World Wide Global Summit (San Diego, Montreal, Toronto, Orlando, and New Orleans), three years in a row for Cisco, as well as Apple, Intel and IBM, to name a few.
Also in the mid-1990s, Winthrop was involved with the International Special Events Society and MPI. He received his Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) from the Convention Liaison Council and his Certified Special Event Professional (CSEP) from ISES in addition to a two-year run as president of the Metropolitan New York Chapter of ISES, now ILEA, as well as publishing numerous articles on producing events and lighting.
At the same time, he partnered with his Swiss wife, Mariella, and founded Big Wave Event Productions, LLC, for event production in New Canaan, CT, and throughout the state. They stopped representing acts and began to produce events in the university, association, corporate, fashion, benefit, and private party markets. Mariella specializes in design and Brian is experienced in live production.
Today, Big Wave, one of the leading event planning companies in NYC, produces major events that provide clients with event management, layout, design, and our own state-of-the-art audio, video, lighting, and décor. Recent large productions included a Japanese fashion show featuring more than 120 models at Grand Central Terminal, which won three Big Apple Awards and Kent Presents, and an Idea Expo that featured 70 major guest speakers.
The couple has a second firm, Big Wave LED, which installs audio, video, and lighting. Recent installations include Yale University, The Gunnery, Choate Rosemary Hall as well as numerous catering halls throughout the Northeast.
Big Wave Events