Nelson Mandela, Johnny Clegg, apartheid

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With all the tributes for Mandela circulating, it’s reminding me that I had my own anti-apartheid connection.

In 1982/1983, I started representing Juluka, a multi-racial band from South Africa.  During apartheid, being a multi-racial band in South Africa was dangerous.  Johnny Clegg and Sipho Mchunu started the band in 1969, and in the beginning, they had to perform in the streets and in unofficial venues because they were a multi-racial band.  The band’s lyrics and actions got them in trouble; Clegg was arrested and beaten up by police several times. Representing Juluka was my own personal battle with the cultural and political struggle of apartheid.

After Juluka disbanded, Clegg formed another band, Savuka.  Clegg’s “Asimbonanga” was one of the most popular anti-apartheid anthems, which in English means “We haven’t seen him.”  Clegg obviously had a strong connnection with Nelson Mandela, as you can see in the linked video.

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Introduction, part 2

While I was in college at UC Davis, continuing my interest in film, I ran the Entertainment Council Film Program – a series of classic films, forgotten gems, and other films that we could rent.  When I graduated, I returned to LA, and tried to plot how I’d get in to the entertainment business.  A guy I’d worked with on the Entertainment Council told me that a great way to start was in the mailroom at a talent agency.  I’d heard stories about people getting their start in the mailroom (I think I’d heard about David Geffen starting at WMA), and that sounded good, so that’s what I set out to do.

I interviewed at all the big talent agencies, William Morris, ICM, CAA.  I still have those interviews vividly in my mind.  At my CAA interview, they told me they’d just hired someone, and it would probably be two or three months before they would have an opening.  In the meantime, through a family friend, I had an interview at a small music agency called Regency Artists.  They were mostly in the adult contemporary business, representing artists like Julie Andrews, Johnny Mathis and Glen Campbell, but knew they were headed into contemporary music.  They made me an offer to start the following Monday.  Just out of college, I was weighing “Monday” with “two or three months,” and “Monday” won.  In retrospect, it was a “Sliding Doors” moment, the other path would have led me to a totally different career path.

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Pearl Jam, Empire Polo Fields, Ticketmaster

Throwback Thursday: In 1993, Pearl Jam wanted to play at non-Ticketmaster controlled venues – they were at issue with Ticketmaster’s service charges. Rick Van Santen and Paul Tollet suggested the Empire Polo Fields in Indio, CA, which hadn’t been used as a venue previously, and had no ticketing affiliation – so I booked them there (November 1993). This is years before Coachella landed at the Empire Polo Fields (1999). It was a huge success – fans didn’t seem to mind the drive, and a great show – I remember watching from the side of the stage. Rick is also part of the throwback – he loved the venue, and his enthusiasm for it sold us.

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Introduction

I guess I should stop and introduce myself.  I’ve had an interesting career, and several people I respect have urged me to write a book about my experiences.  It seems as if a blog might be a better format – I could publish frequently, it could be a living recollection, and in byte sized pieces.  The idea of writing a book seems somewhat formidable, but maybe that would come out of this at some point in the future.  Who could say?

For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be in the entertainment business.  My father was in the advertising business, my mother an ex-teacher, and my uncle was in the film business (an acclaimed film editor).  As a child, I wanted to be in the film business – and made Super 8 films. I really loved the visual arts, and was in advanced art programs in elementary school.  At Beverly Hills High School, I was the yearbook editor, and I had an opportunity to try storytelling in a different format.

Kate Bush, The Red Shoes and tattoos

During “The Red Shoes” album cycle, Kate Bush did an in-store signing at Tower Records in Greenwich Village. There was a huge line and so many people came from as far as Boston and North Carolina to have Kate sign something. One young girl wanted Kate to sign her arm, and she said that she wanted to get the signature tattooed on. Kate wouldn’t do it – she told the girl that one day she might not be a fan any more, and she wouldn’t want to have the signature on her arm then.

Russia, Paul Simon and 007

Throwback Thursday – When I was Paul Simon’s agent, he wanted to include shows in Russia on The Graceland Tour. Only a couple of Western artists had played in Russia at that point, and booking those shows was complicated – I had to fly to Moscow to make the arrangements. In those days, it was not easy to make money in Russia or take money out of Russia. I think Paul mostly wanted to visit Russia, and thought the best way to do that was to play shows there. At the time, it was not possible to dial Russia directly, it had to be done through an operator, which took forever and cost a bundle. I distinctly remember Russia’s country code was 007, which I always thought was hilarious. With the way technology has advanced, it funny to think there was a time when you couldn’t call directly. Image

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Tribute to Lou Reed

In the past week since his passing, I’ve had some time to reflect on the time I was Lou Reed’s manager. I still get a chuckle at Lou’s month+ long internal debate on the Concorde vs. Air France First Class (speed vs comfort), his fanatical obsession with audio quality, importance of hotel gyms, and how smitten he was with Laurie Anderson. I won’t easily forget an Andy Warhol story I got through Lou (size of a review is more impt than what it says), or a water pipe exploding in his room in Paris in the middle of the night. Among the things I learned from Lou: Barolo (& Barbaresco).Image