by Shannon Levitt
Host of The Grindhouse Radio and serial entrepreneur, “Brim” now wants to show his fellow Jews how to kick some ass.
Building a personal brand is something of an art form, one which Brimstone – who calls himself “a serial entertainment entrepreneur” – has been perfecting most of his life. Condensing his career to those three words, he says, is simply “easier than trying to explain the five million different things that I’ve done.”
Ask him what he does for a living and you’ll understand right away. Brimstone, or Brim as his friends and family call him, doesn’t do just one thing. Look at his website therealbrimstone.com and you’ll find that over the course of four decades he’s been an actor, musician, marketer and salesman, professional wrestler, voice actor, author, comic book and video game hero, celebrity spokesman, corporate CEO, blogger, food critic, hot sauce slinger, podcaster and more.
But whatever piece of the career puzzle this “Swiss Army knife of entertainment” is
currently putting into place, he said he always stays laser-focused on two things: building his brand and taking care of his family. And as a proud Jew, he would love to show the wider Jewish world how to kick a little ass.
Brimstone grew up William Kucmierowski on Long Island, New York, where he still lives with his wife and children. His long and circuitous path in show business began as his mother’s idea. When he was about 5 or 6 years old she got him a spot as a child actor on “Romper Room” and “Sesame Street,” where his most vivid memory is looking up during a break on set to see two men pulling the top half of Big Bird off and thinking, “Oh my God! They just killed Big Bird!”
His mother was also the parent who taught him to value his Jewishness. “She always kept it right there, smack dab in my face,” he laughed, acknowledging that these many years later he appreciates her tenacity.
He booked a few commercials, too, but as a little kid with divorced parents vying for his time, acting had to be set aside – at least for a while. Brim would later return to it with a vengeance, starring in multiple films, television shows, documentaries, music videos and as a voice actor in several video games.
Music and being a drummer in a band − “Man, oh, man, drumming - that was my thing” − was what propelled him back into performing. It allowed him to be completely ensconced in life as a working artist and to play the storied music venues of New York City, places like CBGB and The Continental. He incorporated the musical influences of his youth, which were many given all the back and forth between his mother’s more diverse Uniondale and his father’s more affluent Dix Hills. He learned hip hop and metal and much in between, including how to accept and appreciate people from all backgrounds.
But being on tour all the time and “living in a van eating scraps” wasn’t working so well when he got married and was expecting his first child. He fell back on a steadier, more 9-to-5 job in the music press, doing marketing work for various publications. In this way he was still a music insider but was “making as much money as possible to take care of my family,” he said.
Ironically, it was in the course of this more sedate work that he stumbled into his next big show business venture: professional wrestling. He went to an event to take photos for his publication. The Iron Sheik, a well-known Iranian wrestler, was there. He took one look at Brim and said, “You look like you’re going to be a wrestler.” Brim was surprised by the famous man’s offer to train him and introduce him to this world but the Sheik was “iconic, legendary,” Brim said. He took some time to consider, but soon enough he accepted and thus entered a new phase of his life, one in which he started to build his brand in earnest and where the name Brimstone was born.
He was encouraged not to think about any of those things until his training was finished, but he said, “I came from music and understood that in order to make it anywhere you have to have a viable brand. I’m very big on name value and branding and building a business no matter what you’re doing.”
Choosing the name Brimstone was always kind of a joke given its association with a fiery afterlife, he said, “because as a Jew, we don’t believe in hell.” He sometimes has to explain that to people who accuse him of playing fast and loose with the dark side.
While he was wrestling, he was one of only a few Jewish wrestlers and he was often approached by rabbis to come and talk to Jewish kids. “I would always go simply to make sure that these kids, these young Jewish boys and girls knew that they could grow up and they could be a strong person, an athlete or whatever they wanted to do,” he said. He told them they could overcome stereotypes and stigma even if they did go on to be doctors or accountants. “I wanted them to know they can kick some ass, too!”
The Brimstone brand opened the door to everything he’s done since he stopped wrestling. He became the co-founder, president and CEO of Hound Entertainment Group, and from there he’s not only created comic books, something he adored as a kid and dreamed of writing, but has expanded his base of Brimstone-branded products, including children’s books, video games and toys – some of which have been featured on “The Big Bang Theory.”
He started a web-based celebrity food show called “Food Hound: Tidbits,” and most recently, he became the host of The Grindhouse Radio, a pop culture podcast with a weekly audience of close to four million people worldwide. He said he likes to keep the conversation light in general, but he will sometimes rant about things, especially racial and sexual injustice and gun violence on his personal companion podcast “Within Brim’s Skin.”
These are just a few highlights on a very long list, all of which he’s very careful to weave into his brand.
“Everything I do,” he said, “is intertwined. People who pay attention, get it, people that don’t pay attention, don’t get it. And that’s OK too. But it’s subliminal. For example, little Brimstone memorabilia was all around the guys’ apartments in “Big Bang Theory” for a few seasons.”
The brand of Brimstone is at the top of his priority list, but right now it’s Grindhouse radio that takes most of his attention, as it’s what allows him to stay home more with his family.
He’s also hoping to do more in the Jewish community. “This is my community,” he said. “I have always been somebody that’s holding the torch saying, ‘Hey, you know, I’m Jewish,’ and I would love for my own community to embrace me and to show me some love back.”
Just like in his wrestling days, he wants to be the one telling Jewish kids to stand up for themselves, a message he stands by and shares when he can. He said he’s not expecting anyone to “go gaga over me,” but he wants Jews to know who he is and how supportive he is. “I would do more,” he said. “I would do a lot more if I was asked.”