In the beginning…
This is my story, a twisted tale of a life gone wrong…no—that’s not in this story. This story is of my checkered career in the PR game, entertainment sub-genre, and pop music sub-sub. Six years ago I began writing this tome, and now, having taken possession of my domain name, thought I’d update and complete it to date.
I was born into this, having received my initial training at the venerable firm of Rogers & Cowan. The Cowan is my uncle—Warren—and he is still alive. He is, in fact, running a quite successful firm, Warren Cowan & Associates, where I was re-employed for 2 years. He started Rogers & Cowan with late Henry Rogers (who wrote many books on the subject of public relations), and from these folks, and my Dad, Stanley, who was also a Hollywood publicist, I learned the ropes of this much misunderstood and maligned profession. My dad maintained an independent spirit, and though he worked for Warren in the later years of his life, he dreamed of developing projects and becoming a producer. He came close, as he had the rights to develop the Georgie Jessel story when he died. Though many publicists become producers when they grow up, my dad was never to see any of his projects come to fruition.
As a teenager, I was caught up in the newly developing world of rock 'n' roll, and, as I worked summers and after school in Warren's company,I felt that the pop music world might benefit from some of the techniques in publicity that were in play for the great movie and television stars of the day. I was picking up the techniques of "managed exposure," and learning the basics. However, it was impossible to convince the Powers That Be that there was money to be made in that branch of the entertainment business, and it wasn't until they signed a new kid named Bobby Darin that they paid attention to Pop music at all. By that time, I had left to try my hand at applying what I had learned to the world of Rock 'N' Roll.
I parlayed a part-time gig at radio station KFWB in Hollywood, into a working relationship with a flamboyant and brilliant man Barry Friedman, who later changed his name and persona to one Frasier Mohawk, for reasons I was never to learn. Barry once staged an elephant dance contest in the parking lot of a club we represented. From an office in the historic Sunset Boulevard complex called Crossroads of the World, Barry and I did publicity for Brian Epstein's stable of music artists, everyone except the Beatles. Who will ever forget Tommy Quickley, Cilla Black, and more. It was the era of Gerry & the Pacemakers, The Dave Clark Five, and those Liverpool guys who tried to ride the Beatles train. We also represented Hoyt Axton, and were present when Radio KRLA brought the Beatles to the Hollywood Bowl.
"Folk Music, JFK and Me"
From there, I met a dynamic duo of Hollywood hustlers named Charlie Greene and Brian Stone, who opened a folk club, the Hootenanny, in the San Fernando Valley. Folk music was reaching its nadir, and the club booked the top talent in this genre. I remember meeting a very young David Crosby when he played the Hootenanny as part of the Les Baxter Balladeers, his first professional group. I also remember a mesmerizing Oscar Brown Jr., playing the club the night after President Kennedy was assassinated. His "Brown Baby" had everyone in the room blubbering.
Greene & Stone had hustled themselves into the music business, through hanging out and sheer chutzpa. They actually told a story of sneaking on to the Universal lot, finding an empty office & setting up shop there, until they were found out and thrown off the lot. One of the places “it was all happening,” was Hollywood’s Gold Star Recording studios, where Phil Spector was working his magic and creating his “Wall of Sound.” Jack Nitzche, the late brilliant arranger who was in fact the unsung architect of that sound, also made Gold Star his home, and went on to become one of the hottest composers in movies. Phil is still alive and well, in his own peculiar madness, working on various projects.
Also present at Gold Star was a record business promotion man named Sonny Bono, who had just begun a relationship with the winsome teenager Cheralynn Sarkessian. Sonny picked up just enough from the Masters in Gold Star and started producing records, with himself and Cher, under the moniker Cesar & Cleo. Greene and Stone became their managers, and they became Sonny & Cher. "Baby Don't Go," their first hit single in L.A. became the hottest record in town, played day and night on L.A.'s newest and hottest radio Station, KHJ, or "Boss Radio, " featuring future legendary L.A. deejays like The Real Don Steele. Greene and Stone hired me to begin publicizing their hot new duo, and I was officially in the publicity business. Once Sonny's "Look At Me" (which was composed and recorded hastily after Sonny was thrown out of the Music Biz Hangout Martoni's) and the instant monster "I Got You Babe" hit the airwaves, national magazines came sniffing around, and a story on this new Rock, including The Supremes, Righteous Brothers, and the newcomers, Sonny & Cher, broke in the magazine LOOK.
CHAPTER 2 CPR, or the Cowan-Noga Express takes off
One day while I was promoting records at Pasadena Radio Station KRLA, I met Beverly Noga, whose mother Helen had been a San Francisco jazz night club owner (The Black Hawk), and who had discovered and was now managing the singing sensation Johnny Mathis. Beverly, had grown up in the entertainment business, as I had, and after a short lunch, decided to open a publicity company. Contemporary Public Relations began over her Mom's garage in Beverly Hills, with one phone, one desk, one typewriter. Our clients were Sonny & Cher, Dobie Gray, and The Turtles, who had been Sonny & Cher's back-up band at the
Sunset Boulevard Club The Red Velvet. Little did we realize, or give any thought to the fact that we were the only "female-owned" PR company in the business. We specialized in contemporary music, but didn't consider ourselves "pioneers" or particularly "liberated, " just two young women going into a decidedly male-dominated business. We did record promotion, representing, among others, New York label Cameo Parkway Records, headed by the legendary Neil Bogart. Some of the records we worked on were JJ Jackson’s “But It’s Allright,” and a Melanie record or two. But when he sent us “96 Tears” by Question Mark & The Mysterians, we were embarrassed to go to our friends at Radio with it, as it was quite the worst record either of us had ever heard. Needless to say, it became a giant hit, and we were again amazed at Bogart’s ability to make a hit from such a piece of shit. The world was later to see his finely honed talents in major ways.
We visited all the radio stations on promotion days, just like all the guys, hyping our records. We went to Martoni's restaurant and bought drinks for program directors and deejays, dinner for visiting writers and journalists. Those jocks & writers left us with enormous bar bills, but we got the airplay, and we got the stories in print. We had adventures too numerous to detail here, and some day, before one or both of us kicks off, we will write The Book, or perhaps The Sitcom... Suffice it to say, that we were making it up as we went along, and we were having a ball.
We publicized a great Toronto band called The Mandala, which was managed by a gent called Randy Martin. Actually, his name was Rafe Markowitz, and after several years producing TV, surfaced in the last ten years, as "Riff" Markowitz, the Palm Springs Entrepreneur who produces and stars in “The Palm Springs Follies.” Receiving national raves, the long-running fabulously successful show is part Zigfield, part CB DeMille, and plays to SRO houses about 8 months a year.
Bev and I were hired to publicize two pivotal LA Clubs, The Trip on Sunset Blvd., the place which gave birth to Teddy Neely, who went on to star in the loooonnnng-running “Jesus Christ Superstar,” including the movie, and as far as I know, never did much else. We handled The Kaleidoscope, which was LA’s answer to Bill Graham’s Fillmore and Winterland Ballrooms. Kaleidoscope, a sensational concert room that had been home to 30’s landmark Earl Carroll Theatre, was run by the late Gary Essert, who went on to start AFI’s annual FILMEX festival, and his partner John Hartman the very successful agent & Manager, whose brother was TV star Phil Hartman.
We were the publicist for local heroes the Leaves (“Hey Joe”), and The Seeds (“Pushin’ Too Hard”), not to mention Canned Heat, who performed as house band at The Kaleidoscope. Over the four and a half years Beverly and I were in business, we represented a wide array of musical talent, including Eric Burdon & The Animals, the Chambers Brothers, John Mayall, Paul Revere & the Raiders, Chad & Jeremy, Them, and Three Dog Night. We broke a Chicago band called The Buckinghams and enjoyed a good working relationship with the dapper manager of The Buckinghams and Chicago, James William Guercio.
Later, we worked with more British bands when Chrysalis Management hired us for their new bands Jethro Tull and Ten Years After. We were also engaged by British entrepreneur Robert Stigwood to break his new band Cream and his very hot hitmakers The BeeGees.I flew to San Fransisco to see this trio of British Superstar Musicians, and was literally blown away. Cream was the best band I had ever seen, critics were falling all over themselves to get to these three men, and I managed to get a set of Ginger Baker's drum sticks as a souvenir. Cream had lots of internal conflict, well documented, despite their critical success. We hung in with them through their re-grouping as Blind Faith.
CPR was the first company on the West Coast to specialize in Rock'n' Roll, and soon we were joined by others, most notably, the Beatles' friend and former publicist Derek Taylor. Our offices, only a block apart on the Sunset Strip, were constantly buzzing with clients and managers, and at the end of the day, we would meet Derek for drinks at a local deli to commiserate about our rotten clients, who were largely delinquent with their fees.
Derek was integrally involved in the planning and execution of the West Coast's first great pop festival, at Monterey, California in the summer of 1967, and we(CPR) were engaged to do publicity for several of the festivals which followed, including a massive melee in the San Fernando Valley at Devonshire Downs that preceded Woodstock. Jimi Hendrix played many of these festivals, the Chambers Brothers played nearly all of them. Groups such as the Doors, Strawberry Alarm Clock, Love, and The Iron Butterfly ("In A Gadda Da Vida"???) were the mainstays of these festivals, which took place in the period between Monterey and The Big One at Woodstock, after which, the whole concept seemed done and overdone. Cream metamorphized into Blind Faith, an ironic name for one of the first real supergroups, a band whose members hated each other, but whose tour grossed major bucks. By then, I was ready for a change, and left Beverly to sort it all out. She ended up managing the Chambers Brothers, and, a couple of years ago began managing them again. Derek returned to England, where he stayed close to the remaining Beatles until his death in 1997.
CHAPTER 3 “Forever Changes…”
I departed CPR in late 1969, and worked for the living legend Phil Spector for a few months, during the period when he was completing the album "Hair," with the Checkmates, and coming off a hit single with "Black Pearl." Not a prolific or critically successful time for the man, who had just squeaked through the disappointment and rejection of his Tina Turner masterpiece "River Deep, Mountain High" by American radio. Meanwhile, I retained my relationship with Chrysalis, and in 1970 went back to Rogers & Cowan with these clients (Tull, Ten Years After, Procol Harum), feeling that it was time these bands had the power of a major company behind them. These acts, needless to say, achieved major success in the early days of 1970, and I was largely working on them on my own, within the R&C organization, who still didn't understand rock 'n' roll. However, they did have a major music account, Motown, and I was particularly interested in a new young act that Diana Ross had brought to the company. This was the dynamic Jackson Five, about whom my 8 year old daughter had blithered on incessantly. I saw them perform and was blown away, particularly by their adorable lead singer, a bundle of talent. I lobbied hard to become involved with them, working under the direction of their R&C account exec Bob Jones, the ubiquitous and unflappable soul who helps run Michael Jackson's affairs to this day. For a few months, I had the fun of being a part of the launch of this supergroup, and being my daughter's hero at the same time.
We signed Mediarts,a new label headed up by the dynamic (and sorely missed) producer of innumerable hits, Nik Venet. Mediarts hosted some wonderful music by then-unheard of artists, such as Spencer Davis and Peter Jameison, and singer-songwriter Don McLean, whose album featured “Starry Starry Night,” and “American Pie”, both becoming pop classics. There was also a spoken-word album by Orson Welles, which was a challenging project, and in that initial release, the Sylvia Plath of the music business, Dory Previn. Her album was a lovely, but totally depressing depiction of the loss of her husband to Mia Farrow. I absolutely loved it.
"Did Anyone Call While I was Unconscious?"
Then, one night at the Troubador, hanging out with some other PR types at the bar, I received an offer I couldn't refuse...Gibson & Stromberg, a young firm run by some creative crazies, plucked me and my Chrysalis clients from the corporate clutches of R&C, and for the next few years, I got to work with the absolute cream of the music world. We represented the Rolling Stones' 1972 tour; we handled the breaking news of Jim Morrison's death in that Paris bathtub; we virtually owned rock'n' roll publicity in the early 1970's. We had our own table at the Whiskey, with a brass placque on the wall. We worked with The Eagles, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Albert & B.B. King, we hooked up Cheech & Chong with Lou Adler and enjoyed the first flush of success (and a few other substances) with them; we handled upstarts like the very talented Bill Withers, who was fresh from his job at Lockheed, installing toilets in 747 aircraft. We signed the entirely unknown and insane band Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show, and insisted that CBS release "On The Cover of Rolling Stone' as their follow-up single to "Sylvia's Mother". Dr Hook eventually got "on the Cover of Rolling Stone" with their story titled "What's their Names Make the cover". We worked with James Taylor AND his brother Livingston (and his sister Kate), we handled Steely Dan, and for the exciting small label Blue Thumb Records, worked with the Pointer Sisters, and the Crusaders. For Shelter Records we handled Leon Russell, and J.J. Cale. My old friends Flo & Eddie (Mark & Howard from The Turtles) came on board. We represented the major-label debut of the lovely singer Minnie Riperton, and I was privileged to watch her recording her first Epic album, produced by her husband Dick Rudolph with the help of Stevie Wonder. We all fell in love and worked with the great songwriter Paul Williams, whose film performance as Swan in "Phantom of the Paradise" is a rock'n' roll classic. We were involved in other films, such as "A Woman Under The Influence" and the Jack Nicholson cult favorite "Five Easy Pieces." We "discovered" the gifted artist Rupert Holmes, whose album "Wide Screen" had everyone, including Barbra Streisand-- gasping for superlatives. Rupert later went on to produce Barbra's "Lazy Afternoon" album, and became a Tony Award winner for his Broadway show "The Mystery of Edwin Drood."
One night, my friend Corb Donohue, publicist from ABC Dunhill Records and I decided to drive down to San Diego to catch two acts opening at a club there. The opening act was his, a man named Jim Croce, a singer-songwriter new to the label, and the headliners were the group Looking Glass, who had a single hit, “Brandy.” We had arranged to meet a kid with whom we were both in correspondence and phone contact, a person with the unlikely name of Cameron Crowe. Neither of us had met him, but he had written for the San Diego Door and for his college newspaper, reviewing our artists’ albums. He was 14, he had told me, and he would meet us at the club. We arrived, and outside the artists’ entrance, was this tall, gangly kid, all chin, waiting for us, because the club’s owner wouldn’t let him in without being accompanied by an adult. I went on to “adopt” this brilliant young writer, introducing him to many of the editors at the major magazines, and watched him go on to become one of the hottest journalists in Rock, the youngest writer ever to write for Playboy, the LA Times, and Rolling Stone. Today, of course, he is the hottest director in Hollywood, his films some of the most critically acclaimed in the business. For the past 20 years, I have watched his career explode from afar, at every step, wishing him well.
It was 1971, the music was incredible, the record companies had "artist development" departments and provided "tour support" and believed, as we did, that spending some money to launch a new act or a new album was part of the process. We were taking our inspiration from our brilliant friend Bob Regehr of Warner Brothers Records, who, a few years earlier, threw perhaps the most outrageous and unforgettable party ever, when he organized a "Coming Out" party for Alice Cooper. Miss Alice, a Pasadena Debutante, was scheduled to "come out" at the Ambassador Hotel, and the hotel staff was horrified when the "guests" began to show up for this Felliniesque evening. Enter the Cockettes, from San Francisco, dressed as roving Cigarette girls, hawking "cigars, Cigarettes, Vaseline.' Midgets and circus performers abounded, and the evening's most bizarre performance was by a 300-1b naked lady called "TV Mama," who was the evening's most photographed guest. Posters of Ms. Mama graced countless refrigerator doors in our town for years thereafter.
Gibson & Stromberg's independent status and success in the industry gave us the creative license to plan some of the early 70's more unusual events, such as a Bowling party for the launch of a new album by Canned Heat. However, the one outstanding evening that comes to mind is the "Come As Your Most Decadent Fantasy" bash we organized for the launch of Dr. Hook's album "Freaker's Ball." For this, we took our inspiration directly from Shel Silverstein's Lyrics: "Black ones, White ones, Yellow Ones, Red Ones; Necrophiliacs looking for Dead Ones."
Guests at our Freaker's Ball were treated to the sight of the Troubador's Doug Weston dressed as a shepherd, guiding gently (with a tall curved staff) a flock of real sheep. There was one guy, naked, except for gold paint, head to toe. One of the publicity women from CBS was dressed as a huge pink bunny. Lydia Woltag, one of the Gibson & Stromberg girls, as we were thought of then, came as Carmen Miranda, with a head full of fruit, making her nearly 8 ft. tall. Memories abound of Gibson dressed as Henry VIII, and Stromberg as The Pope, blessing the guests with an enormous phallic candle. The Ball was covered live on Radio station KMET, The Mighty Met, by an incredulous Richard Kimble, a dear friend of ours and the band. Again, somewhere, there is footage, and a big file of still photos, which I hope to retrieve someday. Dr. Hook had a top-selling album, and yes, the single "On The Cover of Rolling Stone" got them on the cover. The headline read "What's-Their-Names Make The Cover." Later, I persuaded the guys in Hook to disrobe for a centerfold photo in the short-lived humor magazine Zipper. Copies of Zipper, with Hook's Centerfold, made their way to Europe, where the band became heroes. Some years later, when they played a festival in Sweden, the audience insisted that they take their clothes off, then Hook told the audience that they had to get naked first, and, it was one of those rare instances when performer and audience became one. Wish I had been there, but this sea of flesh was amazing, according to their longtime road manager Nineyear Wooldridge.
"Yes, and the Stones...the dream changes"
Meanwhile, back at the Gibson & Stromberg ranch, we had heard about a great new British band playing at the Whisky, and trouped over to our special booth to watch the L.A. club debut of YES. We were truly impressed, and sat on manager Brian Lane until he signed the band with us. The next day I was on a flight to Oklahoma City with YES, and, after the show, watching white lightening from the top of a Holiday Inn with the band after the show. Once again, I was in rock'n'roll heaven, involved with some music I was nuts about. I worked with YES for the next couple of years, and helped them become one of the world's hottest groups. Meanwhile, we continued to sign every great act around, and then Stromberg was invited to go on the Rolling Stones' 1972 U.S. tour. For an inside look at that tour, read Robert Greenfield's book ("STP"). We continued to enjoy the fun of working with a dazzling array of artists, and the guys reaped whatever profits there were, while us girls were paid a pittance. There was much grumbling...
Why, you may ask, would I leave such an idyllic situation? Times changed, purses tightened, attitudes changed, and we moved up the street on Sunset, to the penthouse of the Playboy building, for God's sake. Where Hef Had lived. And I decided it was time for me to have the experience of being inside a record company.
"BC and The Motown Way..."
Motown Records in 1974 was attempting to "broaden the base" of the label, by moving into more of a "mainstream" in the music business. This entailed hiring a management crew of seasoned, mostly non- African American executives. I was one of those, hired, named co-vice president of publicity, along with my old pal Bob Jones, who had moved to Motown, and was wholly in charge of the label's image worldwide. By then, the Jackson 5 was a full time job for him, as was the label's Diva, Diana (Miss) Ross, along with Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and the rest. I was given the task of breaking their new slate of artists, including Severin Browne (Jackson's brother), and alot of British bands, some of the "progressive" variety. One of these was PFM, from Italy, who were lovely guys, and who cooked a huge Italian dinner for the press at their own press party. We were like an island within Motown, because for all their experience in the business, their only strength with radio at that time was with R&B radio stations. This did not help our efforts with bands like the Italians PFM, who might have made it on FM radio with the hot progressive music formats, but didn't get attention from the Motown promo dept. In any event, there was much going on at Motown that I could get excited about, and I quickly became in-house champion of the young group The Commodores, who had made the promise that they would become bigger than the Beatles. I recalled that statement one night at the end of the 1984 Olympics, when I watched Lionel Ritchie sang "All Night Long," for the largest world audience ever.
Another project I fell instantly in love with was Smokey Robinson's first solo effort after he left the Miracles. "A Quiet Storm," was a gorgeous album, and I personally felt that it would go down in history as one of the great Make-Out albums of our time.I began pitching every national magazine and every female writer I could find, and Smokey started getting the kind of press attention he had long deserved. With this album, I felt that Smokey had certainly embodied the thought that Bob Dylan had eloquently expressed, that Smokey was rock's greatest poet. At some point, Someone Upstairs At Motown determined that I had become too Personally Involved with this project, and I was given my release. So much for my first brush with the Corporate Mindset. Heartbroken, I retreated to my rented house in the Valley and planted an organic vegetable garden. I vowed never again to succumb to the temptations of the corporate world. I wish I had listened to myself.
"Backyard Bar-b-q's and Organic Gardening..."
The country was experiencing an oil shortage, people were enduring long lines at the pump, prices climbed, and somehow, this all affected the record business. Somehow there wasn't enough oil to make vinyl, and there was a slump of gargantuan proportions. Giant conglomerates were gobbling up the mid-sized companies, and, no longer in the driver's seat at these companies, were people who knew anything about music. Lawyers and accountants took over, and the quality of the music suffered. Tiny independents popped up and thanks to some of these, I had projects which I worked on from an office in my backyard. There was a project in Chicago, in which a dynamic, creative guy named Paul B. opened a Fiorucci boutique. Paul had made quite a name for himself with his Paul B. boutiques in Chicago, as the first shop to bring in French jeans. The girls of Playboy were frequent customers, and he was considered tres' hip. Fiorucci was decidedly ahead of its time for the midwest, and its two beautiful brand-new floors of the Michigan Avenue Water Tower Shopping complex, could not sustain the massive recession that hit almost immediately after it opened.
Next came a band called Natural Gas, whose members had come from Badfinger and the Faces, Their first (and only) album was a joy, and thanks to Frank Barsalona of Premiere talent, they secured the opening spot on Peter Frampton's 1976 Summer tour. With this exposure, and a lot of great press on the tour, they nevertheless went not-so-quietly into the void, victims of the excesses of the mid-1970s, and the worst management I had ever witnessed. And, as Forrest Gump said, I don't have anymore to say about that.
"A Logo Is Born..."
It was time to open an office, and go into business on my own, and I needed a logo. I agonized over the "statement" that would define my approach to public relations...then, I had a dream...then, I had the dream again. When I ran into my old friend Dean Torrance, the very talented graphic artist who was creating album covers for Chicago, the Eagles, and other top artists, it was quite serendipitous. Dean had not yet reunited with his old partner Jan Berry for the life of touring and playing concerts, fairs and oldies shows that they enjoy today. He was very successful in his Kittyhawk Graphics business, and I was overjoyed that he agreed to create the Hollywood Sign silliness that became my "statement." And for those that have not received anything from me in these almost twenty years, the quote along the bottom of the letterhead endures: "Twelve press agent working overtime can do terrible things to the human spirit." This quote by Cecil B. DeMille is somewhere in the 1950 film "Sunset Boulevard".
I decided to get serious, and moved into a small office in Century City with my accountant. I was located on the Avenue of the Stars, and my first client became Linda Lovelace. We had problems immediately, as she wanted me to tell the press with a straight face that she never did "Deep Throat," that it was some other person. Very short-lived, that project. I was not heartbroken. I took on a beautiful coffee-table book on Tatooing as my next project, then, worked with the brilliant comedy writer Bruce Vilanch on his breakthrough comedy album "Out Of The Closet".Bruce eventually not only came "Out of the Closet" but has become a star, with an Oscar-nominated documentary ("Get Bruce") and a long-running gig on "Hollywood Squares". Then, William Shatner came to me with a spoken word album of a college tour he had done, and I was introduced to the world of Star Trek. As Paramount had not yet decided to do a feature film of the Star Trek series, except for the epic film "Kingdom of the Spiders," Shatner was "between acting projects". This double album is where Shatner's infamous "Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds" came from. I learned that Star Trek fans can take anything, as long as their heroes are involved. Bill, however, was a gentleman, and a lot of fun to work with. He allowed me to tie him inextricably to the fledgeling organization "Green Peace," and I learned many years later that it was this relationship that was behind the plotline of one of the Star Trek feature films that dealt with saving whales on Earth.
I had a small staff by this time, and we were working hard and developing a good rep. A&M Records gave us two of their hottest groups, Styx, and Supertramp. Styx's Seventh album, "The Grand Illusion" was released on the 7th of July, 1977, and we enjoyed grand success, except with the rock press. The press hated Styx with a vengeance, although they sold a ton of records. It was their first Gold album, and their manager, Derek Sutton (who had also managed Procol Harum and Robin Trower) made a lot of money for and with the band. Supertramp was another story, the press loved them, they were a lovely bunch of guys, they made wonderful, positive and happy music, and they were a joy to work with.
"An Offer I Should Have Refused..."
One day in 1978, when we were really rolling, Neil Bogart called, and offered to buy me out, to become V.P. of publicity at Casablanca Records. His PR chief, Susan Munao, was moving over to management with her first client, Donna Summer. It was a momentary lapse of judgement on my part, but the High Profile position,leased Mercedes, grand salary and other perks were irresistible. Also irresistible was the opportunity to work with Bogart, whom I considered the most creative and dynamic person in the music business. What I didn't know was that Neil was moving further and further away from the day to day operation of the label and into the film business. And I had to work with his brother-in-law, Larry Harris, which was not so thrilling. So there I was, at the height of Disco-mania, and rode the wave with the Village People, Donna Summer, and Casablanca's movie "Thank God It's Friday." The excesses which drove the world of Disco were pretty bizarre to a late-bloomer like myself; also, the music gave me a headache. My second attempt at clawing my way up a corporate ladder ended up in disaster less than a year later.
I picked up where I had left off, with a couple of boxes of my Dean Torrance designed letterhead, a new Beverly Hills address, and in 1980, had a new partner in Kip Morrison, a most ambitious and creative publicist with a corporate background. She went after her wine and beauty products accounts, I represented rock bands, and we handled the restaurant Fellini's together. My old friends, The Turtles, metamorphized into Flo & Eddie, and went out on tour together, and once again, I had the fun of working with these very talented veteran performers.
"No One Here Gets Out Alive..."
Back in the Gibson & Stromberg Good Old days, lots of new young people hung out at our office, as we were the center of activity for rock'n' roll information in L.A. Sixteen-year old Cameron Crowe from San Diego was one of these kids, and as long as he did stories on our clients, we encouraged him, introduced him to the editors at the L.A. Times, Rolling Stone and Playboy Magazine. His writing career later merged into a spectacular film career and he won an Oscar for "Almost Famous" a film about those glory days in Rock n' Roll. Another of these kids was Danny Sugerman, a Beverly Hills High dropout who had managed to get a job as gopher for our clients The Doors. Danny's whole life became The Doors, and he had written an unpublishable manuscript about the band. Somehow, in the late 1970's he connected with Jerry Hopkins, who had written what at that time had been the definitive biography of Elvis, and was living on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. The two collaborated on what became "No One Here Gets Out Alive," which Warner Books published in 1980. We threw a publication party at the Whisky, where the Doors had started out in the '60's as House Band. We assembled all of the folks who had been involved with them, managers, groupies, musicians and their producer Paul Rothschild, who had kept a very low profile for years. Elektra founder Jac Holzman was there, and the remaining Doors played, with vocals by LA club stalwarts Top Jimmy (and the Rhythm Pigs.) They successfully recreated the entire atmosphere of the Doors' beginning in that club, and some people swore that Jim's spirit had materialized in the room! In the middle of the evening, Ray Manzarek read to the assembled crowd a telegram from Warner Books, announcing that the book was #1 on the New York Times best-seller list. This was the first rock book ever to reach that pinnacle. The book went on to sell in the gazillions, and eventually spawned the controversial Oliver Stone movie, "The Doors."
Then, the delightful Steve Goodman, he of the classic song "City of New Orleans," became a client. Stevie had created a wonderful song about his beloved Chicago Cubs, and as it turned out, just as the song, "A Dying Cub Fan's Last Request" was hitting the airwaves, the Cubs were winning the Pennant. Tragically, Stevie was, in fact, dying of leukemia, and left us a few months later. His manager, Al Bunetta, also had us working on his other artist, the acclaimed singer- songwriter John Prine. Prine was, and is today, the critics' favorite, and, everything he releases on his OBoy Records goes gold.
"Minimum Wage Rock'N'Roll..."
The BusBoys were a most unusual occurance in the music business in the early days of 1980. They were a working class black band who played what they called "minimum wage rock'n' roll." They wrote songs like "There Goes the Neighborhood," and the L.A. reviewers went crazy. They played in clubs all over town, the buzz became deafening, and I persuaded Arista Records' A&R whiz Bud Scoppa, a man of uncompromisingly good taste, to come down to see them. After much wrangling about what to do with this hybrid, Arista signed them. By that time, stories on them had broken in Time, The Wall Street Journal, L.A. Times Calendar and many other national publications. They went into the studio, and their first album, "Minimum Wage Rock & Roll" was released, only to be rejected by FM radio for being too black, and R&B Radio for being too rock'n roll. MTV, which had just gone on the air in late 1980, had the good sense to air the BusBoys' video, but not in heavy rotation. Meanwhile, the heat we had generated resulted in Eddie Murphy, who had just signed to do his first feature film "48 Hrs." coming after The BusBoys for his movie. Who would have thought the thing would take off into the stratosphere! The movie was a monster, the BusBoys appeared on "Saturday Night Live," and opened a tour with Linda Ronstadt. Their performance of the "The Boys Are Back" made them known throughout the world. The song, which was never released as a single, eventually became the theme for the Dallas Cowboys, later for Fox Sports network and the BusBoys, despite the fact that they never had a hit record, has had a run of about 20 years.
Also during that time, I became aligned with top New York publicist Howard Bloom, who needed a West Coast office to represent his many clients. Together, we signed the group Earth, Wind & Fire, who were preparing to record a new album for CBS. Their management company also represented a very short, but talented young man who called himself Prince. Prince, with his "Dirty Mind" album and his androgynous attitude, quickly became the darling of the rock press, and we had another success on our hands.
"In Which Spinal Tap Emerge with the Story of My Life..."
I received a call from my mother, telling me that her best friend's son was making a movie and was looking for a publicist. The son turned out to be the brilliant satirist Harry Shearer, whom I had known back in the days when we were promoting records at KRLA. Harry had been with the Credibility Gap, a radical radio-comedy group that did social satire, and wonderfully skewed commentary on KRLA as the Rose Bowl Parade aired on TV. Now, Harry had teamed up with fellow Gap-ster Michael McKean, along with Christopher Guest and first time feature director Rob Reiner for a rock'n' roll spoof which they had called "This is Spinal Tap."
Their goal for publicity in advance of the release of this film was that it not be perceived as a "medical movie." I totally got it, feeling that they had written the story of my life. Harry even told me that he based the character of New York publicist Bobbi Fleckman on me (loosely), and I secured the most fun project of my career. Thus, I got to work with what I considered The Beatles of Comedy, as they outlined for me, and subsequently the Rock'n'roll press, the history of this British band, who were preparing their "Tap Into America" tour.
There I was one day, with a video tape excerpt of the film, which I had brought up to the office of Rolling Stone to show the scene to their West Coast editor, Steve Pond. The scene was of Tap's efforts to use the theme of Stonehenge in their stage show. The Stonehenge pillars had been created according to a crude drawing, and instead of being 18 feet, they were built 18 inches tall. For those not familiar with how ingeniously Tap's management tried to make the most of the mistake, a midget was hired to dance next to the 18" pillars, which were lowered to the stage in the midst of the band's show. Steve Pond was appropriately impressed, and then showed me a faxed press announcement from Black Sabbath that he had received that day. Seems they were going on tour that summer with the theme of their stage show being-- Stonehenge. Life Imitating Art, or was it the other way around??
The meetings with the guys in Tap were a hoot, as ideas were thrown back and forth as to how to position this film, and as the rough cut was finished, and the "word of mouth" screenings began, the press were nearly unanimous in their delight. The vignettes of life on the road with The Tap became the major buzz of the music business. However, not everyone was convinced it was comedy; many musicians thought Reiner & Co. had ripped off the story of their lives. We knew it was brilliant, and it has become the standard for rock comedy, a classic of our time. I felt that my life was complete, and although Embassy Pictures didn't keep me on after the picture was released, the work was done, the buzz we had created worked, and Spinal Tap's audience found them. Almost 20 years later Tap played Carnagie Hall, raised tons of money for charity, and is considered god-like in the theology of Rock 'n' Roll.
David and Donna Langer were an incredible couple I had met through my association with Kip Morrison, and through their efforts to create the first celebrity event to bring attention to the World Hunger Project. They had been early associates of Werner Erhart (est), and were early pioneers in presenting relationship workshops. They had opened a PR/marketing office on Melrose Avenue, and asked me to come in and work out of their office. They specialized in health and Foundation clients, worked with a Dr. Gary Alter, who did the first penile implants, and took on fun projects like the first electric toilet seat, and the first talking teddy bears. My kind of people. Together we worked on The Great Peace March, an aborted attempt of a couple hundred dedicated but misguided souls to march across the U.S. for Peace.
"More and bigger Changes, My Pacific-Rim Shot!"
Again, I was ready for a change, and this time, it was a life change. I made up my mind after the 1984 Olympics, in which the world came to L.A. (and nobody left), that it was time for me to take a break from the business, so over the next couple of years, I plotted and packed, and in 1987 moved to Maui. I felt that having spent the first half of my life in LA, I was determined to spend the second haslf in Maui. I had hopes of landing a job in one of the hotel P.R. departments, thinking, quite mistakenly, as it turned out, that my resume and vast experience would mean something. Not so, and, blessedly, I lived a Non-PR, Stress-free existance for almost five years, selling activities to the thousands of tourists who were coming to that island in search of whatever. Back then, Nirvana meant a week on a Maui Beach. I highly recommend it, to this day. I came home after almost 5 years, when the tourist economy in Hawaii soured at the outbreak of the Gulf War.
February 1991, I returned to L.A., a changed (and much mellower) person, back to a much crazier city. Fax machines, freeways full of people on car phones (some of whom were shooting each other), and I had to get used to a pace suited to gerbils on endless treadmills. Within the first month I landed at Rhino Records, publicizing what I had been told was Harold Bronson's favorite band, Big Daddy. These 8 guys took the songs that were current chart toppers, such as Madonna's "Like a Virgin," "Graceland," "Born to Run," and "Money For Nothing," and arranged them in the styles of the '50's and '60's. Very funny stuff, very clever guys. Their live show was wonderful, but due to the economics involved (and no management),they were only able to perform in L.A. We tried to get Rhino to put up some video money for them, but it was not to be. The album,"Cutting Their Own Groove," received great reviews, even Time Magazine and People loved it, and Rhino did its best to secure some radio for the brilliant tracks. But they weren't used to dealing with a live group, as most of the albums (CDs now) Rhino was releasing at this time were of groups and artists who had retired, or had long since shuffled off this mortal coil. So, something this off-beat was relegated to the Dr. Demento Show and a bit of play on morning radio shows. Anyway, these very talented guys made a total of four albums, including a 25th anniversary tribute to "Sgt. Pepper." In 2000, Oglio Records released "The Best of Big Daddy", but alas, hardcore fans of The Band couldn't bring 'em back alive. Today, Big Daddy is just a memory, and I cherish their friendship and the time we spent together.
Later, some of Big Daddy were to regroup, and were reincarnated into Rhino's version of the Chant craze, on "Chantmania," an album by the Benzedrine Monks of SantA DiMonicA. These monks chanted their way through "Hey Hey We're the Monks," and "Do You Think I'm Sexy," among other memorable tracks. It became one of Rhino's biggest selling albums.
Rhino also had a thriving video division in 1991, and they were preparing to release a collection of 12 videos from the seminal 1960's ABC TV show "Shindig." "Shindig's" smiling Host Jimmy O'Neill had been at KRLA Radio back when I had started in the mid-'60's. It was great to re-connect with him, and he became the centerpiece of our campaign to launch the "Shindig" series. These shows included rare performances of-Jackie Wilson, The Righteous Brothers, The Yardbirds, The Mamas & Papas, The Byrds, Bobby Sherman, the Turtles, and my old friends Sonny & Cher. The videos were well received. I was then off to new projects, and getting used to being back in the craziness I had so desperately wanted out of. I guess I had a new appreciation of L.A., and of what could be done, now that TV and cable had embraced the entertainment industry with the newly launched "E Channel", MTV, VH-1, and, of course the very successful "Entertainment Tonight, all of whom covered our "Shindig" kickoff party.
In late 1992 I went to Jensen Communications, owned by former journalist Michael Jensen, who was one of the "kids" we had "adopted" in the'70's at Gibson & Stromberg. Michael was a writer for the Pasadena Star News then, reviewing rock'n roll concerts, and writing up interviews with our clients. Now, he was a mega-successful public relations whiz, who had headed up CBS Records' tour publicity Department, and was now doing projects for Mikhail Gorbachev and more. While at Jensen, I worked with the mega-talented actress/producer Shelley Duvall, whose "Faerie Tale Theatre" had captivated me in the early days of Showtime Cable. Now, she was producing "Mrs. PiggleWiggle," and her energy and creativity was a wonderful thing to behold. Children's Entertainment, which I had not yet worked in, was becoming a huge industry, and through this project, I worked with some magical people. Speaking of magic, I also re-connected with the wondrous Jon Anderson, when our client, Kitaro, made a lovely album with him. "Dream," was released on Geffen Records, and eventually became a Grammy nominee. Kitaro and Jon did a couple of concerts together, and it was great fun being involved with such music again.
"In Which I Become the Queen of the Singing Cats..."
While at Jensen, we became partners with a bizarre guy who recorded his 12 cats and made a Christmas album out of the results. The Jingle Cats' "Meowy Christmas", released independently, sold over 120,000 CDs & tapes the first year, and the follow up, "Here Comes Santa Claws" should keep Jensen and producer Mike Spalla in kitty litter for years. The PR was a hoot, the fan letters were amazing! In certain circles, I will be forever known as the Queen of the Singing Cats. Why not?! We ended up the campaign over the 1994 Holidays on a promotional tour, and once back in L.A. a satellite TV tour, complete with the Spallas and their kitties in the world's longest limousine, trailed by CNN's camera crew.
Also at Jensen, we helped with the publicity campaign to launch the first line of authorized rock'n' roll comic books, with Rock-It Comix. Gold Mountain Management's Jack Jacobs and Ron Stone were the brains behind the concept, although the first wave of Rock-It Comix, as executed by Malibu Comics, was extremely well done, and well received. These included comics on Ozzie Osbourne and Lita Ford. The line has continued, with comics from the PharCyde and YES, among others. Now, Marvel Comics owns the Rock-It line.
The year 1995 brought me to my friend Don Williams’ Music Group, and introduced me to the world of the Internet. This somewhat lengthy and entirely true history was written during that time, and enjoyed a cyber-residence with the good folks at Indie Space (formerly Kspace) for the last several years, until I was able to update. As previously mentioned, I worked for Warren Cowan & Associates for approximately two years, and, among other projects, had the pleasure of working with the late comic genius Steve Allen. I realized what a great influence that his creation, the “Tonight Show,” was on my life, and that perhaps the streak of wild silliness that resides in me somehow came from those late nights watching him on my parents’ TV. He is and will continue to be missed.
I also had the joy of working with the respected producer and songwriter Steve Tyrell, whose nearly perfect CD “A New Standard” on Atlantic enjoyed more than a year on the Billboard Jazz charts. Tyrell (who nobody realized was the incredible singer he has apparently been since birth), created an album of the 20th century’s most wonderful songs, working with legendary musicians. I helped to get him exposed to the public, booking him in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel’s CineGrill, where he (and his great band) dazzled sold out audiences. He received great reviews, and was discovered by the younger generation in glowing stories in college press. We worked at getting him on TV where he charmed the Donny & Marie Show audience, and eventually the Tonight Show booked him. I can only hope that he continues to make albums, as I believe he’s the new century’s Tony Bennett, and personally, I could listen to him sing forever. “A New Standard” will probably sell well into the 3rd Millennium, as it is truly timeless.
While at Warren Cowan, my friend Herb Dow, Emmy-award winning former Film editor and lifelong PeanutButter lover, started his long dreamed-of Peanut Butter company. With Florida-born country singer Sorrells Pickard (who grew up on Uncle Stanley’s Peanut Farm), Herb launched Sorrells Pickard Gourmet Peanut Butter, a delicious new addition to more than 6000 store shelves in eleven western states. We had wonderful press, particularly when the “Spread the Bread” foundation donated tons of peanut butter to cities, shelters, and schools. Sorrells did a historic Jar-Signing tour of Supermarkets, and sales reached more than 3 million jars. I became known as the Peanut Butter Princess, and Sorrells became known as the Peanut Butter version of Colonel Sanders. We even had a page in Forbes Magazine over the Christmas 2000 holiday, before a downturn in the economy prevented the company from expanding to keep up with the demand. At this writing, Herb has several interested investors, hundreds of testimonials from Peanut Butter Lovers, and plans to bring back Sorrells Pickard sometime this year.
Following a disaster-prone few months, where I underwent surgery for a perforated appendix, then shattered my ankle in 3 places, Warren and I parted company, and it was back to indie projects. I’ve worked with a marvelous artist/sculptor named Gerri Dalzell, who creates magnificent Sea Horses and Mermaids for environmental organizations (Heal the Bay), hotel and office lobbies and private estates in SoCal and Hawaii. I’ve recently worked with the Reflect Monitor software company, developer of a Parents’ protection software, which is also a method whereby parents can “spy” on their kids while they’re online. A recent project for the Hyperbaric Systems, a California-based biomedical company, has announced a new method of extending the life of blood platelets from 5 to 10 days. This project marks an important new development for blood bank administrators, who have issued recent warnings of blood shortages at a 20-year low.
A sense of adventure prevails, as I anticipate the next chapter of this saga. Maybe I’ll turn this all into a book, as this process has brought up more and more stories and recollections, some I’ve added to this site, some more private and personal. Publish or perish? I don’t know…but for now, the story and stories continue.