My father came from nothing. What’s worse, when his dad died he left all his money to his first family. My dad couldn’t go to school full time, he had to support his mother.
So education was primary in our life. My dad may not have been a millionaire, we were solidly middle class, but we didn’t sacrifice, learning came first.
But my father never lost touch with his hardscrabble upbringing. He knew what it took to get ahead. He was constantly asking questions. And I was embarrassed.
He’d talk to seemingly anyone. Tell them his life story, try to connect. To the point where I became shy and withholding. Occasionally, I can turn it on and be the life of the party, like my mother, but if I’m feeling in any way uncomfortable, I hold back.
Last night we met Daniel Glass and his family at Nobu. Traffic is hell and I don’t like to be late so we ended up getting there a few minutes early. Daniel, being a New Yorker, is always on time, so I went into the restaurant to see if he was already there. He wasn’t. So we went back onto the sidewalk where there was a sudden frenzy. The paparazzi were shooting pictures.
It’s gross. Especially with today’s Steve Jobs fiasco. If we lay off of Owen Wilson after he attempts suicide and the blowback on the Jobs photos is so heavy isn’t it obvious that the paparazzi can hold back, that we don’t have a need to know, that we can observe people’s privacy?
Well, not in Malibu.
The paparazzi stay forty feet away, there must have been a lawsuit or a gentleman’s agreement. But when someone emerges, they go berserk.
And Nobu is a looky-loo’s paradise. In attendance last night were Warren Beatty and Chad from the Chili Peppers and Russell Simmons dropped by to say hi… But this couple who the paparazzi were shooting, I couldn’t recognize them.
So I asked the twentysomethings nearby. They’d gotten a better look. But they shrugged their shoulders too.
Took a lot of effort for me to bridge that gap, to ask these kids. But they were barely more than kids and we had the camaraderie of experiencing a train-wreck, it brings people together.
And about ten minutes later Daniel and company arrived. I told them the story, how we had no idea who these people were.
And Daniel walked straight over to the paparazzi and asked them. It was Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone.
I know Garfield from "The Social Network". I know he’s the new "Spider-Man". I thought I would have recognized him if I got a good heads-on, which I didn’t. Then I saw the pic on TMZ today and there’s no way I would have known it was him. As it was, I confused Emma Stone with Emma Watson, but Daniel’s kids set me straight.
Daniel Glass is from Bensonhurst. He came from nothing. He’s had to fight for what he’s got. He might run the most successful independent label today, but he’s had a checkered career, been at so many labels, Doug Morris once let him go. But like my dad, Daniel soldiered on, believed in himself. And look at the result.
Meanwhile, today I had lunch with Dan McCarroll. President of Capitol & Virgin Label Group.
Dan was a drummer. For so many people I can’t list ‘em. Most notably for Sheryl Crow, he played on "The Globe Sessions". Then he worked for Lars, running his label. And after a brief stint at "Hits" he got a gig at EMI Publishing and today he’s a big cheese.
But a couple of stories Dan told were fascinating.
He was a member of this band the Grays. With Jon Brion and Jason Falkner. They were signed to Epic. They were on the road, and Dan was constantly calling Richard Griffiths, head of the label. Complaining. That they were on this tour, traveling ten hours a day, but there were no records in the store!
I wouldn’t have the balls. Especially knowing Richard. I do as I’m told. I learned that in school.
And Dan told another story. About backing up Jay of the Americans. The original Jay, Jay Trainor. They used to do these weekend gigs. Fly outs and backs. And on a trip back from the midwest, Dan sat next to Jay. And told the singer that his business was all screwed up. And Jay said Dan should be head of a record company.
That was decades ago. But when Dan got the gig at Capitol, Jay tracked him down. It’s a small business. Jay heard about Dan’s gig from another player.
I always get a laugh when people e-mail me they’re gonna give it another year and then go to graduate school. They never make it as musicians, they’re just not willing to struggle.
And then there are those who go to music business college. As if you can learn how to ask questions and stand up for yourself in school. You can learn how royalties work, but if you think that’s what it takes to be successful, you’ve never met Irving Azoff or Lyor Cohen.
I’ve carved out my own tiny niche through perseverance. But I’d have gotten still further if I asked questions, if I stood up for myself. Life is not like school. There are few rules and you don’t get a grade at the end. Life is for real. You’ve got to fight to get ahead any way you know how.
These people atop the totem pole got there for a reason. You may envy their status, their income, say you can do what they do, but can you really?
Most of what makes them successful you can’t even see. Both Daniel and Dan can tell stories that make your hair stand on end. It wasn’t a cakewalk to the top.