Susan Leigh Bender does things differently. First she entered show business from the "show" portion, as a nightclub singer to be exact. Later, she moved into the industry from the "business" side, and, in the process, she ended up selling programs to Latin American TV stations without speaking Spanish.
In addition, when she started in the industry, the TV business was a male-dominated field, with women relegated to secretarial jobs. In this respect Bender is a pioneer, similar to other female international TV sales executives such as Claude S. Perrier and Gilberte de Turenne in France, Giuliana Nicodemi in Italy, Mex Hartmann in Germany and Alice Donenfeld in the U.S.
Finally, TV distributors usually start working in indie companies and then move to studios; Bender instead went from a studio position and became an independent distributor.
But before that challenge, which saw her moving from a studio to an indie and culminated in a 45-year career that is still going strong, Bender went through a dramatic, if short, interlude as a sales executive at Harmony Gold, which was in the midst of international intrigue and court action.
As vice president, Latin American Television Sales, Bender worked at Paramount International Television for 20 years, starting in 1986. Before that, she was executive director, International Sales at Metromedia Produces, a company she joined in 1972.
At Paramount she worked under three division presidents: Bruce Gordon, Gary Marenzi and Armando Nunez Jr. "But," she said, "even though I was paid up until 2006, I actually left in 2005." Bender added that during that time she "never did output deals. I simply didn't believe in them."
At Metromedia she worked with Paul Rich and, for two years under Herb Lazarus. Rich recalled: "Susan pretty much ran the Latin American sales operation by herself. At MIP-TV in 1980, she approached me and said, 'Paul, I've got this client from Argentina who has owed us a lot of money for a while and wants to see you immediately.' As the client approached me, he was carrying a large manila envelope, and blurted out, 'This is for you to pay the balance of what I owe you.' I opened it, and inside was $100,000 in bonds! I loved it when our clients paid their bills (especially Latin Americans), but, at the sight of all that money, I panicked, but the ever-reliable Susan remained cool, took the envelope, walked across the street to a bank, and deposited it in a Metromedia account we had established there."
During an interview at NATPE Miami last January, Bender admitted that she didn't know how the bonds...