The Clash | Roman Polanski | N.Y. Times Arista Piece | Chicago Kudos
The bloated, self-important, self-invented Rock and Roll Hall of Fame holds its annual blowout a week from tonight.
The group claims $10 million in assets and pays its director a six-figure salary. But it gives a pittance to indigent musicians and doesn't pay sidemen who play at its annual dinner/concert despite selling the rights to VH1 for millions.
How anyone can take this thing seriously is beyond me. How former establishment-bashers Elvis Costello, the Clash and Sting can get up on the stage in the Waldorf ballroom and accept these awards is perplexing.
Now it turns out the Clash, who recently lost founding member Joe Strummer to a heart attack, won't perform at all in any incarnation.
Bass player Paul Simonon told the wire services over the weekend: "I think it's better for the Clash to play in front of their public, rather than a seated and booted audience." Simonon also cited the $1,500 ticket to the Waldorf bash as a reason not to go.
My faith in the Clash has been restored. Now if only Elvis Costello and Sting -- two men who pride themselves on being principled -- will come to their senses.
The big question looming now for next Monday night: With the business in such turmoil, record sales down and Sony laying off hundreds in the next couple of weeks, will the record companies still come through with their $25,000 tables at the Waldorf for a decidedly uncharitable charity?
This is an especially hot issue right now because the TJ Martell Foundation, the record business' real charitable arm, will be having its own fund-raiser June 2 (in honor of MTV's deserving Judy McGrath).
As I've reported before, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation raises no money for the Rock Museum in Cleveland. The foundation also gives little to no funds to indigent musicians. And the only musicians who qualify for funds are ones who've already been inducted, according to the highly paid director, Suzan Evans Hochberg.
That means that if Paul McCartney or the Eagles need their medical bills paid, they can come to the Hall of Fame Foundation. Michael Jackson, too, and at the rate he's spending money he may need them. I do wonder if the less billionaire-like inductees from past years have ever tried to get their hands on Evans' loot. The foundation keeps a $10 million war chest, by the way, with almost all of it invested in stocks, bonds and government securities. It keeps about $1.5 million on hand for emergencies.
More tomorrow on who gets into the Hall of Shame, and where the money goes.
I don't think anyone is more surprised by Samantha Geimer's latest round of publicity than Roman Polanski, his friends and his movie studio.
Geimer, as we all now know, had sex with Polanski in 1977 when she was 13 years old. He was 43. Polanski fled the country.
Now Geimer, who remained anonymous for 20 years, has done two national TV shows and wrote an op-ed piece for the Los Angeles Times.
The question is, why would a mother of three children (ages 11 to 20) seek to, more or less, absolve her rapist? And why would she shed her anonymity when it wasn't even necessary?
Her lawyer, Larry Silver, told me the other day that Geimer's youngest child wouldn't be surprised by the talk of his mother's rape. "After what President Clinton did," he said. "And it's not so bad merely because someone has family problems."
Indeed, Geimer has been playing cagey about the anonymous thing for six years. In 1997 she did an interview with Inside Edition, in which she revealed her name and declared that Polanski should be allowed to return home.
Funny thing, though: In 1997, no one cared. Polanski didn't have a movie out. The whole thing died. Geimer had mis-timed her campaign.
Now, of course, Polanski is back in the news with his excellent movie, The Pianist. Suddenly Geimer is back, too, reiterating her 1997 story as if it were a revelation.
The timing is questionable.
Polanski has barely said a word to the press since The Pianist debuted at Cannes last May. He has let the work speak for itself. He has no intentions of returning to the U.S. and has no illusions about it. So what's up with Geimer?
One insider put it this way to me the other day: "It's not a coincidence. She's looking for her fifteen minutes. And she's found it."
A source at the Los Angeles Times told me that the paper paid for her piece. (Silver denied it, however.) Silver confirmed that CNN paid Geimer's expenses from Hawaii to Los Angeles for her Larry King interview.
My own guess: The odds are good that a book deal will be next, and who knows? Maybe even a movie deal, too. But clearly Geimer's approach has struck a sour note for Polanski and for herself.
I have to say it was with some amusement that record industry insiders read yesterday's New York Times feature on Arista Records head L.A. Reid. I like Reid and admire his tenacity.
Now I admire his spin control.
To read the Times, his life has been a fairy tale. Buried toward the end of the long, puffy article was the concession that some recent records hadn't sold.
Right: There was no mention of Whitney Houston walking off with $20 million cash and subsequently selling a paltry 540,000 copies of her album. There was also no indication that recent disasters by TLC and Toni Braxton had anything to do with the nasty legal battles they had had with Reid at La Face Records in Atlanta before he took over Arista.
The Times article also failed to mention the chaos surrounding Usher's album 8701. An early single called "Pop Ya Collar" was released only to radio and never made it out as a record at all.
A $2 million video was made for the single but never shown because Reid "hated the song so much he wouldn't watch the video," says a source. The first version of 8701 was scrapped and the album was re-recorded. Arista, critics tell me, has been spending money like crazy under Reid, millions and millions more than necessary.
Also missing from the Times story is the recent brouhaha between Reid and British manager Simon Fuller, who created American Idol and manages Annie Lennox. Fuller took his business to Reid's rival Clive Davis after Reid yelled at Fuller for being late to a meeting. Now Davis has Lennox on J Records and Idol sensation Tamyra Gray on RCA.
The Times also got the impression that Reid was newly well-groomed and natty. They obviously missed our story about him shopping in Gucci on afternoons when he had just taken over the running of Arista. (Now he wears Brioni.) Clips from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution would suggest that he has always been the well-turned-out exec, and that moving to New York didn't start him down that path.
I did like the skipping over of his divorce from Perri "Pebbles" Reid, now Perri Nixon, the former pop singer who accused L.A. of snatching TLC from her (she was their manager) after she'd built them into superstars from nothing. Perri has since left the music business to become a preacher in Atlanta.
As for the TLC and Braxton lawsuits, each of them would have been good references to the pre-New York L.A. Reid. The Times story is called "And They Said He Couldn't Run a Major Record Label." But quite the contrary: Reid, who patterned himself on Motown's Berry Gordy, knew better than most how to run a label when he took over in 2001. Like Gordy, he underpaid his artists on their original contracts, then resisted giving them more of a share of profits when their careers took off.
Then, of course, the Times could have looked into Reid's conflicts of interest at Arista with publishing and management. He still owns HitCo South Music Publishing, which signs and administers the rights of songwriters and producers. Many of those songs, including three that were on Houston's album, kick money back to Reid.
Still, the label has had success with Avril Lavigne and Pink, the former giving them a shield to hide behind. But last week, as this column reported, the losses forced the ouster of Lionel Ridenour, the head of black music at Arista, after a decade of service and loyalty to Reid when he first arrived.
There was no mention in the article of other acts, however, that Arista trumpeted when Reid took over. A female singer named Lennon and a rock act called Adema have both disappeared. And Blu Cantrell, who had a novelty hit just as Reid came in, has still not released her follow-up album. It was due last winter, and is now scheduled for the end of June.
The new Santana album, Shaman, has been a disappointment compared to the prior hit, Supernatural. Arista has not been able to translate the radio success of Santana's single "Game of Love" into album sales.
Also unmentioned is the comeback album by former Motown act Boyz II Men, which came and went without a peep. As well, Arista recently lost a hot new act called Thicke, which was signed to Babyface's NuAmerica label, to Interscope Records.
Babyface, whose real name is Kenneth Edmonds, was at one point Reid's close associate and business partner. When Reid took over Arista he bailed Edmonds out of his long-term deal at Epic Records and set him up with NuAmerica at Arista. Edmond's own solo album at Arista was a bust, and NuAmerica has moved to Interscope, which is part of Universal Music Group.
And there's still no sign of a new album by Dido, the folky British songstress whose album was released on the Clive Davis-run Arista. After Davis left the Dido album took off, and the Reid regime took credit for making it a sensation. "Reid didn't even know who Dido was when he came in," said one former Arista staffer. "He used to call her 'Diddo.'"
Congratulations to director Rob Marshall, who won the Directors Guild Award over the weekend for Chicago. The musical also passed the $100 million mark over the weekend on its way to best picture at the Academy Awards.
Chicago looks like a steamroller. More tomorrow on Oscar madness ...