John Goodman | Lava Records | Today Show Book Deals   

Save the Last Dance for John Goodman

You knew him as Roseanne's husband, Dan Conner. Now, you know him as the newest Blues Brother. 

But John Goodman has some ideas about what he'd like to do next. He's got his heart set on playing famed late songwriter Doc Pomus

Pomus, who died in 1991 at age 65, co-wrote with Mort Shuman some of rock and roll's biggest hits. Among them: "Save the Last Dance for Me," "Teenager in Love," "Little Sister" and "This Magic Moment." 

Pomus' real name was Jerome Felder. He was the younger brother of famed New York divorce lawyer Raoul Felder, who currently counts among his clients New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani

The Felder family had been hoping to get a film made about Doc's life for years, Raoul told me the other day. "But it had to be with someone who could sing. When we heard John was interested and that he could sing — he just sang on Saturday Night Live — that sounded like a good thing." 

More to come as this story pops along. A great idea, though. 

Kid Rock, Sugar Ray Make Hot 'Lava' 

The record label that's spawned some of the newest acts in pop music is about to be sold — or bought, depending how you look at it. 

Lava Records, the brainchild of Atlantic Records' Jason Flom, is said to be next in line for absorption by parent company AOL-Time Warner.

I am told that Flom will get $40 million for Lava, which has produced more hits on Atlantic than even the Atlantic label over the last few years. Some of its acts include Kid Rock, Sugar Ray, Matchbox Twenty, Jill Sobule, Uncle Kracker, Edwin McCain and the Corrs

Not all Lava business has been steady sailing, however. The mini-label famously didn't release an album by wunderkind producer Jon Brion, who is the guy behind the success of Oscar-nominated Aimee Mann

AOL/TW's purchase of Lava comes at a tricky time for the record business in general, and Atlantic in particular. Last week, the company released three name acts from its roster. Tori Amos, Collective Soul and Poe are now all looking for deals elsewhere after Atlantic felt they were too expensive to keep on. Ironically, Flom  signed the first two acts at Atlantic before he started up Lava.

For Flom, the Lava sale is big news — and not just financially. Sources inside Atlantic tell me that he's now poised for bigger things, especially with record sales down everywhere except with his acts. One Atlantic executive who might start worrying about the future is Flom's superior, Val Azzoli, a favorite of Warner Music Group's former upper management.

Calls to Flom were not returned.

Today Show Book Profit Revealed by TV Guide 

As a former book publicist, I was more than a little shocked to read J. Max Robins' scoop the other day about the Today show taking a commission on book sales from authors interviewed on the program. 

According to Robins, and verified by Today, NBC runs a commercial for Amazon.com after a book interview. If viewers order the book they've just seen featured on the program, NBC gets 10 percent.

As far as I know, when Oprah pushes a book on her show, the only people who benefit from it are the author and the publisher. Oprah — unless I hear otherwise — is not getting a commission on sales for things like White Oleander and Song of Solomon.

Rosie O'Donnell doesn't receive remuneration, either.

Books — Harry Potter notwithstanding — have the absolute smallest profit margin in the world of pop culture. Compared to movies or records, they are negligible. Most books do not break even for years, if at all. Most authors support themselves with primary jobs like teaching. Book writing is not, and never has been, a lucrative profession.

When I read this story, I immediately thought of the late Emily Boxer, the Today show's tough literary editor during the 1970s and 80s that ran the book segment with an iron fist. She made at least one book publicist break out in a sweat while going over new catalogues, looking for potential guests. Her choices were not always perfect, but to think of her discussing a 10 percent commission on books sold through Today appearances — I'm sure she's turning in her grave. The venality would have appalled her.

If book publishers — notoriously the weakest links when it comes to courage standing up to baying wolves — take this lying down, where will it stop? Will moviegoers be next? Hey, why not? If the Today interview sent you to see a movie, why shouldn't Today profit from the suggestion? Ditto for record albums — if you saw an act perform in NBC's outdoor concert space and then bought their album, shouldn't the network get a piece of the pie?

I'm being facetious, but I guess it's possible. The sad thing is, news programs and their editors were supposed to be arbiters — in at least some instances — of taste. Like critics, they are supposed to be more or less objective in what they select to show the public. But if they're getting paid for it, how can they be anything other than subjective?

It's hard enough getting a literary author on a morning show. In the old days, Emily Boxer might say — when an author was pushing a second book — that the first one hadn't done so well, but she liked the writer and the book reviews were good. But what if the new criteria is the author's ability t generate sales revenue for NBC? It wouldn't matter if the book is good or if reviewers like it.

At this rate, Amazon and Barnes & Noble might as well start their own shows. It would cut out the middle man.

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