Quaid, Gere, Leo Shut Out By Oscars

I've said it before and I'll say it again. Once the Golden Globes take care of movie stars' nominations, the Oscars move on. And so it was this morning for Dennis Quaid, Richard Gere, and Leonardo DiCaprio. All of them did very good work in their respective films. None of them was nominated.

For Quaid it's a big gyp, I think. His performance in Far From Heaven was stellar. But the movie's campaign was poorly executed, and the result is Quaid gets the shaft.

For Gere, it's not so bad. He won the Golden Globe for Chicago. If he'd clearly put himself in the Best Supporting category for the Academy, he would have gotten it.

For Leo, not getting nominated for either Gangs of New York or Catch Me If You Can is a blow. He should have been nominated for the latter. But Catch looks too breezy and deceptively simple. But trust me, it isn't. Steven Spielberg's two movies, Catch and Minority Report will both live on long after this award season.

My greatest pleasures this morning? Salma Hayek's nomination for Frida and Christopher Walken in Catch Me If You Can.

And oh yeah--the winners? I'll say now: Daniel Day-Lewis, Nicole Kidman, Walken, Zeta-Jones, Chicago, and director Martin Scorsese.

Rapper 50 Cent Hits Jackpot With No. 1

A rap star named 50 Cent (real name Curtis Jackson), a 26-year-old who doesn't seem from his interviews to be particularly articulate, is today's big money winner.

Jackson's album, Get Rich or Die Trying, is a smash hit with today's youth. They bought nearly 800,000 copies of the album last week, making it No. 1 this week. It sold ten times as many copies as the second-place CD, Norah Jones's Grammy-nominated debut.

Jackson is an associate of Eminem (real name Marshall Mathers), having performed with him on his own albums. The two share Dr. Dre as a producer.

Universal Music Group cancelled its annual Grammy bash this year reportedly because Jackson has trouble getting along with Universal performer Ja Rule and Murder Inc. label head Irv Gotti.

In 2000, members of Ja Rule's posse allegedly stabbed Jackson at the Hit Factory Recording Studio. A feud developed. Universal Music Group chief Doug Morris decided he'd rather live than host a party where all these people might be in the same room.

In one online interview with the Rap Basement, Jackson spoke about his friendship with another rapper, Nas.

"Me and Nas," he said, "I thought me and Nas had a relationship, you know? Where we kick it and [expletive] where we call each other. He call me I call him and ... Really it started off when I dropped 'How to Rob', he um, he took me in and [expletive.] He let me go with them on tour, his Nastradamus tour, his promo tour."

I don't have Jackson's new lyrics, but on his last album, Fast Track, he included one song called "[Expletive] You." I'm highlighting that one since it's third in the order on the CD, which is usually the hot track on an album. The song tells of Jackson's difficult youth.

"Born a healthy baby, I wasn't always crazy/This ain't how mamma raised me, this how the hood made me/The D's call me by my government name/I be dumb and shoot up parks."

The new album features songs like "What Up Gangsta?" and "P.I.M.P."

Atlanta Music Scene's Mr. Big Comes To NYC

The sound of music is in the air — and so is the smell of money. Not only is it Grammy month, but a main player in the music business comes to New York tonight to be honored by the UJA Federation.

Entertainment lawyer Joel Katz will get an award from his all his buddies in the ailing industry. Katz is unknown to New York media circles, but in Atlanta he is the king of entertainment lawyers, the Allen Grubman of New York.

Katz's clients — who veer toward the country side of things and are generally associated with BMG Music labels — have included James Brown, Willie Nelson, Jimmy Buffet, B.B. King, George Jones, George Strait and Alan Jackson.

But Katz also represents the executives who sign the artists to their labels, which is a neat trick that few others can say they do. A couple of years ago, for example, Katz was working for both Clive Davis and L.A. Reid during the tumult at Arista Records, which resulted in Reid taking Davis's job.

Sounds confusing, no? But Katz had been instrumental in helping Reid with his Atlanta-based record company La Face, representing both the label and acts like Toni Braxton.

Katz likes to think of himself as a kingmaker in the record business. Last year he put Matchbox Twenty manager/producer Matt Serletic into his job as chairman and CEO of Virgin Records — even though Serletic had no major label experience at all. But Katz has a long history with EMI. Tomorrow night, Alain Levy — the new head of EMI — is one of the guest chairpeople for Katz's dinner. Grubman will give Katz his award.

With all this, the 58 -year-old Katz is said to be finding a niche for himself in New York as the leader of a media company.

The Mysterious Life Of Kaper Records

The road to being a power player in the record business is never easy. It is often marked by missteps for even the most savvy player.

For example, back in 1993, Katz and his longtime partner Don Perry started a record label in Atlanta through RCA Records. Katz and Perry represented both RCA and then-label president Joe Galante at different times, so the deal at least wasn't too hard to negotiate. Galante authorized the deal, which some say was capitalized to the tune of $20 million.

(No one I talked to from RCA in that period can recall how much the actual amount was. Ron Urban, who was in RCA business affairs at the time, told me: "That was ten years ago. I can't remember anything so long ago.")

Interestingly, the arrangement with RCA — they paid all the overhead for magnificent offices in the upscale Atlanta neighborhood of Buckhead, plus a big staff — was only "first look." Katz put together an unprecedented backup plan: He convinced EMI to do "second look," so any artists RCA didn't want EMI would have to take. Apparently that's not unusual in the record business. One exec told me. "I've heard of third-look deals."

Only one problem: Kaper Records, named for Katz and Perry, did not put out many records.

"I couldn't name one of the acts," said Cliff Lovette, an Atlanta entertainment lawyer who was then Katz and Perry's partner. Lovette cut most of the early deals at Kaper. "But it wasn't like Joel or Don were music people. They really believed they could make it work, but we kidded them about not having the greatest ears."

Katz agrees, although he likes to point that he found one hit record on his own, pre-Kaper. "I had one label with an enormous hit, Key Largo, by Bertie Higgins. And I found it."

Scott Mikell, now with Warner Bros., was the A&R guy at Kaper. He said, "In the beginning, RCA was totally behind Kaper, financially and everything. We were supposed to work with them, but then there were a lot of politics. There was a lot of pestering. At one point there was six months when RCA itself didn't even have a president after Joe Galante left and before Bob Jamieson arrived. Many of our release dates were dropped."

During Kaper's five-year run, the label eked out very few releases even though they announced that they'd sign eight to 10 acts a year. During Kaper's lifespan, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution — their hometown paper — reviewed only two albums they put out, one each by groups called Afroplane and Blackgirl.

Their other acts came and went without making much of a splash: Kronik, Eryk and Questionmark Asylum were the biggest names.

Many of the acts found by Kaper's A&R department were rejected by RCA.

"I turned down a lot of their acts," said Skip Miller, who was then the head of RCA's black music department. In fact, it became something of a running joke that Kaper didn't have any acts of note at all. In 1995, in a rap newsletter, one writer commented of a label act: "Kaper Records has finally put out a decent group."

Nevertheless, in 1998 Jamieson — who'd replaced Galante as head of RCA three years earlier — finally shut Kaper down.

"They had to buy us out," Katz said of the deal, which he also claims ended a lot sooner than '98. "It really only ran a year and a half or so."

Indeed, RCA did just that.

"It was a disaster," said one RCA exec from the period. "We went to visit them and they had so many people on staff — it was more than we had at RCA! And Scott Mikell, who was a nice guy, was this white kid looking for black acts. It couldn't work."

But Kaper did raise Katz's presence in Atlanta to the point that in 1998 he merged his boutique firm with mammoth Greenburg Traurig. He's now a shareholder and vice president, overseeing 30 or so entertainment lawyers, he says.

And more good things came after RCA bought out Kaper. Katz is now general counsel for both the Country Music Association and NARAS, the Grammy organization. And in 1999, Katz gave a big-enough donation to the University of Tennessee law school, which now boasts the Joel A. Katz Law Library.

Was it a $10 million gift as rumored? Katz told me, "It was several million over a period of time. It wasn't a lump sum."

But it must have been close to it. In 1996 his first big donation of $100,000 was newsworthy; after that the contributions became private.

It's a good thing the law library was set up when it was. All the current turmoil in the record business could affect Katz's business. Like Grubman, he depends on personal relationships to close deals. Katz, like Grubman, had strong ties to Sony Music's now departed Tommy Mottola. Katz does not know Andy Lack, the new head of Sony.

"I have not yet met Andy Lack," he said. "I'd like to meet him. I would deal with him as a businessman, looking at it from a fresh perspective."

Meantime, Katz swears to me he's not gung-ho about finding a high-powered CEO job at a media company. He once wanted that, but not anymore.

"I want to stay in Atlanta and live in peace and finish my career," he said.