Friday, August 14, 2009

HARTMANN'S LAW - #2 - GET THE DOUGH - August 14, 2009



The second rule of showbiz is, Get the Dough! This is the fiduciary responsibility of the manager. If an artist is going to plan his life months in advance, and obligate himself to show up on a specific date, at a particular place, he does so under a set of negotiated terms and conditions. He must rehearse his band, hire a crew, travel that distance, and incur a myriad of expenses. It is incumbent upon the promoter of the event to honor the conditions of the contract reflecting the agreement that got the artist there in the first place. It is very important that managers recognize this obligation and collect the money, as it is due, and make sure it is disseminated through the proper channels. The services of booking agents are usually employed to resolve the details of the employment and the agent is often involved in collecting the fees. Sometimes, a manager must also exercise a certain amount of skill to collect his own commission.

THE TAXMAN - Ringo Starr

In the early eighties I moved my family to San Juan Capistrano in an effort to get out of the fast lane and lead a somewhat normal life. After a couple of years in exile, bored with the real world, I returned to Los Angeles in search of gainful employment in showbiz. My first stop was at the offices of my long time friend and attorney, Bruce Grakal. I was warmly greeted as Bruce advised that his partner had left to start his own practice and the empty office across the hall was mine.

It took a while to get my bearings and gain a clear focus on the job market. I decided to start the search by going back to the agency business, where I had begun my career in 1961. Sam Weisbord, then president of the William Morris Agency, informed me that it was company policy not to hire former employees. Sammy confided that the greatest disappointment of his career came when he rehired a former agent, Mike Ovitz. In 1975, Ovitz, along with four other dissident agents, and a huge chunk of the WMA client roster, left to form the highly successful Creative Artists Agency.

I focused on Marty Klien the head of Agency for the Performing Arts. The gig didn't fall off the truck, but after a months long romance, I got lucky. One afternoon, while inching my way through heavy traffic on Sunset Boulevard I was passing the 9000 building which housed APA. By shear coincidence Marty was stuck at the building's underground parking ramp. All I saw was a black Mercedes, but for some reason I stopped and let the car enter the traffic lane in front of me. Our eyes connected and our grins flashed. Marty, must have taken the gesture as a sign.

Later that afternoon he called, and I finally got the meeting I had been seeking. A week later, I started my second career in showbiz as an APA agent. I was determined to never again abandon the industry that had served me so well for so many years. Eager to make an impression, I reached out to Grakal to see if he could deliver me a client. Over the years, we had each contributed to the others success by "delivering" clients to each other for representation.

Although Bruce's roster covered a wide range of composers, performers and record companies, his primary client was Ringo Starr. I was thrilled and honored when Bruce suggested that I meet the legendary drummer of The Beatles. Even Marty Kline was excited when I walked a real live Beatle into his office. He picked up the phone and called the producer of Saturday Night Live and secured an offer for Ringo to host the show. A few weeks later I accompanied Ringo to New York City for the taping. Ringo did a brilliant job and we had a great time. Everybody was happy.

Ringo and I hit it off and that is how we started our artist/agent relationship. A year later, I left APA to form a management company and Ringo honored me by going along. A few months later I got a call from Betty Fanning, my former secretary at William Morris. She had become the head of the commercial department and had secured an offer for Ringo to appear in a series of TV spots. I didn't think for a minute that he would take the deal, but it was for a million dollars.

Much to my surprise, Ringo jumped at the idea and after some dickering back and forth we improved the offer to one million, two hundred and fifty thousand, the fifty to be spent as expenses. This is where "Get the Dough" became a significant challenge. A British citizen, performing such services in America, was obligated to pay a significant portion in taxes. But, Bruce and Ringo had received income all over the world and they had a plan to get all the dough.

The Beatles' feelings on such matters were well documented on the first cut of their "Revolver" album, which was entitled "Taxman." First we negotiated to have the five thirty-second spots filmed in The Bahamas, where there is no personal income tax. This involved the rental of the local, Nassau television station for five days. I went along to service the booking and make certain that everything went smoothly. It turned out to be one of the most fun adventures of my career.

The telling of the rest of the story will have to wait for another forum, but the production was accomplished on budget and on schedule. All that was left for us to do was receive the million-two and spend the fifty grand. The payment was wired to a Nassau bank and immediately transferred to Ringo's bank in Monte Carlo where he maintains a residence. The two hundred thousand more than covered the commissions and Ringo walked with a cool million for the five days of work.

We rented a twenty million dollar estate on the end of Lyford Cay and took up residency for two weeks. We filled a limousine with groceries and started the longest running party in which I had every participated. There was a staff of eight servants at our disposal twenty- four- seven. I even had my own house on a private beach below the main mansion. Ringo's lovely wife Barbara got bored with our endless chatter and left us alone after dinner each night to share our life stories.

A week later, Bruce showed up and informed us that legendary singer/songwriter, Harry Nilsson was scheduled to arrive the next day. I had run with Harry a few times in Los Angeles, and I knew that the party was just about to get started. Except that I was already exhausted and didn't think I would survive another round of all-nighters. I booked a flight for Los Aangeles, and left the revelry to the professionals secured in the knowledge that we had fulfilled our commitmnet, delivered the goods, dodged the Taxman and honored Hartmann's Law #2 - "Get the dough."

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