I was a bit anxious, sitting at the bar in Forte a very nice restaurant in Birmingham, Michigan. Elmore ‘Dutch’ Leonard had asked me to meet him there to discuss his upcoming book.
Mr. Leonard had called me the night before. He got my number from his son Pete whom I’d known for years.
I had been in the music business since high school the reason Mr. Leonard wanted to talk with me was because I knew quite a bit about that business like how concerts get put on and how records get played on the radio. In our phone conversation, he told me: “Chili is gonna go from the movie business to the record business”. He needed some ‘inside stuff’ to put into the novel.
Our meeting took place in the early 1990s after the movie ‘Get Shorty’, based on Mr. Leonard’s previous book by the same name became a big hit. Chili Palmer was the main character in ‘Get Shorty’ played by John Travolta and in this next novel the LA/Hollywood scene will be all about the beat instead of the screen.
Mr. Leonard walked in and came over to the bar, introduced himself, sat down, and ordered a glass of Glenlivet 12-year-old Scotch. He said to me: “ what’s yours”? I said: “single malt is fine with me. We proceeded.
Mr. Leonard started out with some questions: “I need some of the lingo you guys use in the biz, like who can get a record on the air and how? What does it take to promote a concert at a large venue and so on”?
I told him that most promoters have relationships with agents who in turn have relationships with artist’s managers. The initial contact comes in the form of an email or phone call then the parties proceed to iron out the price and other details for the artist based on a flat rate or usually in the case of an important artist or band a percentage of the gate (the proceeds taken in for tickets). That’s only part of it, then there is the ‘perk’ side of things for the musicians this document is usually referred to as the ‘rider’ to the contract to play, like how much Vodka and beer is in the dressing room and what kind of food for the band and crew meals? Those are some of the things about putting on a concert one writing a story about that biz would need to know.
“As far as records getting played on the radio while writing this story, you should keep in mind that there is no more ‘payola’ like in the sixties and fifties. The word ‘payola’ is not used anymore and the concept has changed to getting things for the MDs and PDs like presents for their kid’s birthdays or something special for them personally. MD stands for music director, and PD stands for program director. The two most important people at radio stations for the record promotion person are those two. Unless of course, they are friends with the GM (general manager) at a radio station. GMs can help but usually, they defer to their MDs and PDs opinions on music for the station”.
This conversation between one of Hollywood’s famous writers and myself was, for me most unusual. I was happy to help him out but not so sure I provided anything useful for the novel.
When I read the book ‘Be Cool’ my surprise was a happy one. Dutch Leonard used some of the things I told him and that was very cool for me.
Later when I saw the film the characters actually used some of my terminology … I loved that!
Bits And Pieces
This section, the title of which is the same as the 1964 hit song by The Dave Clark Five. It will contain some interesting information about the author Elmore ‘Dutch Leonard and his writing.
I was told that his daughter Kate typed his books because he wrote them all by hand.
His son Peter had an advertising agency called Leonard and Mayer in Detroit. Michael Mayer, Peter’s partner in the agency is my cousin by marriage.
The movie: ‘Out Of Sight”, based on a book by Elmore Leonard, was partially filmed here in Michigan, Bloomfield Hills to be exact. The filming took place in 1997. The crew and cast needed a place to park during filming so they used the parking lot at The Academy Of The Sacred Heart for that. I was teaching photography at ASH then and my students (all girls) were very aware of George Clooney being near. I was instructed by the head mistress of the school not to let my students anywhere near the movie people. Well that didn’t exactly work out.
Some of my students were out back near the parking lot waiting for George to emerge from his trailer. I went out to tell them they needed to go back in the school, right then Mr. Clooney came out of his trailer.
Jennifer Lopez was also in ‘Out Of Sight’ co-staring with Mr. Clooney, I went out in the parking lot, not only to tell the girls to go back in the school!