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Talking to Strangers: The Adventures of a Life Insurance Salesman Paperback – 7 May 2013
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"Peter Rosengard is quite, quite mad- but is also brilliant and funny and can sell anything to anyone. As many of us know to our cost."
-John Lloyd, TV producer.(QI, Blackadder, Not the Nine o Clock News)
"If Peter Rosengard writes half as well as he talks this is a work of genius. If he writes half as fast as he talks you will have finished reading this before you started."
-Howard Jacobson, Booker Prize winner.
"Few careers outside show business have encompassed such vivacity, such bravado, such adulation, such immodest rewards- in short such sexiness."
- Richard Askwith. The Evening Standard :ES MAgazine
"Peter was a key figure at the birth of what became known as Alternative Comedy. Because of that I am very grateful to him. Hence this quote, highly recommending a book I haven't read. But it means I don't have to buy a policy."
Peter's book is a marvellous rollercoaster tale of a life well lived. He delivers wisdom, jokes and empathy in equal measures. His experiences range from founding the Comedy Store, managing a chart topping pop group, to selling the world's biggest life policy for$100M -from a cold call. I heartily recommend it to anyone interested in business- or indeed life."
-Luke Johnson, Chairman, Risk Capital Partners and FT columnist.
"I became a life insurance salesman in London in May 1969, for the glamour, the fast cars, the groupies... the beautiful women who'd stop at nothing to buy life insurance. It's a very well-kept secret. "Thus begins Peter Rosengard's extraordinary account of his life so far, and the endless adventures in which he made, lost and remade a fortune; founded London's famous Comedy Store, discovered and managed some of the greats in stand-up comedy; turned an unknown boy band into a chart-topping sensation; and from a cold call in a public phone box, sold the world's biggest ever life insurance policy, for $100m, for which he is still celebrated in the Guinness Book of Records. This is a book about "chutzpah", testament to a simple belief that "nothing's impossible".
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This new book is no `how to' or `self help' manual but is an engaging and entertaining look at a life well lived. It is set out in very easily digested, but not chronological, bite size chunks and really is a story of sex and drugs and rock and roll, and a six day war.
When not selling life assurance (he remains in the Guinness Book of Records for the largest ever policy), Peter's achievements include founding London's Comedy store and a 9/11 charity, managing 80's band `Curiosity Killed the Cat', introducing Glasgow airport `have a go hero' Jon Smeaton to an unsuspecting American audience and being thrown out of Disneyland for getting involved in a scrap with Goofy.
The stories range from the confessional, the emotional to the comedic but all are told with a self-deprecating wit and some laugh out loud moments.
But there are ideas and lessons in there too. Pinning back ears with superglue for a more girl friendly look is one of the less good ideas. One of the most obvious and better ideas though is found in the title - the benefits of `talking to strangers' and how doing just that can be enriching in a personal and business sense.
I managed to get to the book launch, where the first person I met had literally bumped into Peter at a restaurant four hours earlier - they had never met before but now were no longer strangers. The guest list on the night included Comfort, a local parking warden, who may not have bought a policy but didn't give Peter a ticket and a broad range of clients from all walks of life.
Kipling's poem `If' talks of someone who `...can talk with crowds and keep his virtue, or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch' . He could have been talking about Peter, who will talk to anyone at any time about anything, which I think is a lovely outlook, though I guess not to everyone's taste. There would be no chance of looking at your shoes in a lift; if you see Peter waiting for one and don't want to chat, you'd best take the stairs.
The final paragraph sums up his approach - `I love life, I love selling, I love selling life...' It's a powerful and entertaining story well told...
I was trying to locate some Japanese friends, who had gone astray, and was hailed by a total stranger, Peter, awaiting his dinner at an outside restaurant table in the company of a good bottle of red wine, with the cheering words, 'The food's great in here!'
So we had a glass of wine together, before I resumed my search, and we then met the following week for a hilarious supper at the very same restaurant. I had read his splendid book 'Talking to Strangers' in the meantime.
Peter tells his tales of adventure in a series of devil-may-care anecdotes, and what a life he has led, to the full, embracing the unexpected the illogical and the creative at every turn and to great effect. The impossible he does as a matter of course. His achievements are considerable. It is ironic that he embraces life's chances and insecurities with such courageous gusto, while carving out a super-successful career offering great security to others and peace of mind, for he is a life-assurance salesman!
But don't think he is dull: oh no, if you haven't met the man, read the book and enjoy yourself.
Peter Rosengard is a fully paid-up member of the human race, which he has run in spades. He has done much for charity; he has the heart of an artist; and he really does talk to strangers - all the time, that is his art.
He once admonished his small daughter, 'Now don't go talking to strangers' - 'But, Daddy, I don't know any strangers!' she charmingly exclaimed! Maybe there are no strangers, after all.
But there are an awful lot of jokes and extraordinary anecdotes.
Anyone that may be shy/introverted will find this an eye-opening read, I for one have taken a leaf out of Peter's book (no pun intended) and adopted a whole new attitude to chance encounters. Talking to strangers is not only socially valuable, but can lead to exciting opportunities which I came to learn upon meeting Peter in Spitalfield's Market just over two weeks ago.
I am fortunate enough to have joined the man himself for breakfast this morning at his infamous 'corner table' at Claridge's. The book was of course in my bag and he was kind enough autograph for me, picture attached!
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