THE LEFSETZ LETTER: Lunch With Jerry Weintraub

He didn’t shave.


I’ve been against shaving ever since I saw that Paul and George hated it in a teen magazine back before I had whiskers. I kind of see it like making the bed…why? Especially if you’re just gonna sleep in it tonight!


I put on my look. To the best of my ability. Sure, I was wearing my jeans and had my collar turned up, but I’d shaved, meticulously, I felt that Jerry would judge me.


But he didn’t judge me, he wanted to be my friend.


Attitude. Superiority. Bullshit. That’s the entertainment business. Take some self-possessed gangster or dork, put him in a three thousand dollar suit and he’ll look down his nose at you, asking not only what have you done lately, but what can you do for him today!


But Jerry was completely different. He was warm. He immediately launched into a personal story, the kind which people I’ve known for years won’t tell, involving his family.


He wasn’t looking for sympathy. He was communicating. As one human being to another.


Bob Lefsetz, Santa Monica-based industry legend, is the author of the e-mail newsletter, "The Lefsetz Letter". Famous for being beholden to no one, and speaking the truth, Lefsetz addresses the issues that are at the core of the music business: downloading, copy protection, pricing and the music itself.

His intense brilliance captivates readers from Steven Tyler to Rick Nielsen to Bryan Adams to Quincy Jones to music business honchos like Michael Rapino, Randy Phillips, Don Ienner, Cliff Burnstein, Irving Azoff and Tom Freston.

Never boring, always entertaining, Mr. Lefsetz's insights are fueled by his stint as an entertainment business attorney, majordomo of Sanctuary Music's American division and consultancies to major labels.

Bob has been a weekly contributor to CelebrityAccess and Encore since 2001, and we plan many more years of partnership with him. While we here at CelebrityAccess and Encore do not necessarily agree with all of Bob's opinions, we are proud to help share them with you.

I was sold.


As Jerry said, "Talent loves me!"


Now I know why.


He ate the Jerry Weintraub Special, linguini and clams. It was right there on the menu
it’s first on the menu in the restaurant, but scroll down to "Seafood" to see it here:


Menu – Il Piccolino


being at Il Piccolino was like eating in his dining room. Not that Jerry acted the king, he doesn’t bark orders. Then again, he’s capable…


Like with that family story he told me. You don’t want to make him angry, he can be a BULL!


Reminded me of my father. He could be the nicest guy in the world, but if you pissed him off, if you disappointed him, if you didn’t give him the proper respect, he went OFF! My dad could have played Joe Pesci’s part in "Goodfellas".



And like my father, Jerry knows it all comes down to money. Everybody’s looking for it and it comes with control. Not that he needs payback for a favor. Every day he wakes up to fifty people asking for favors. That’s quite an account to draw upon, if you think about it.


So he’s fourteen and working at Goldberg’s. A minor hotel in the Catskills. And Sam LeFrak comes in for a meal and asks him WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?


Which, of course, is what I asked Jerry about LeFrak. Sam came for the kosher food, he didn’t trust the Concord. But the Concord was THE hotel. So Sam took Jerry to meet the owner. He just heard from the great grandson last week. You see once you’re part of Jerry’s family…


And speaking of family, he ultimately went to see his wife, Jane Morgan, appear at the Concord. Didn’t want to, but the Mafiosi he knew demanded it. Not that Jerry ever was in bed with the Mob, but it’s best to pay respect.


It usually made Jerry too uptight to watch Jane perform. He was anxious she might make a mistake. And when three bozos at the table behind him kept talking, he turned around, put his finger in front of his lips and said SHHH!


They laughed in Jerry’s face.


Whereupon Jerry jumped over the table and started beating the shit out of one of them. A melee erupted. Which only ended when a Mafioso whipped out a gun, scaring even Jerry.


The owners of the Concord called up a judge. They turned a hotel room into a courtroom. They put up an American flag and everything. And this Sullivan County judge said to Jerry…"He hit you first."


And Jerry says that wasn’t right.
And the judge interrupts him and slowly says once again, HE HIT YOU FIRST!


THAT’S RIGHT YOUR HONOR!


Case dismissed.


But, but, BUT the talker said, what about my $300 suit, it’s ruined!


The judge told Jerry to give him three hundred bucks. Jerry said, "If I pay him $600, can I hit him again?"


That’s 2 a.m. Catskills justice.


And then there was Elvis. He was the linchpin, he was the road to success. The Colonel demanded Jerry show up with a million dollar check, and he did. Then the Colonel asked him what kind of deal he had in mind… Jerry said he didn’t, that he hadn’t thought that far! And the Colonel said he wasn’t sure what was right either. Then the Colonel offered a 50/50 split. Yup, the Colonel and Elvis would split 50% and Jerry got the rest. HUH? Talk about another era in concert promotion!


Eventually Jerry paid Elvis and the Colonel 80%.


And he only paid Zeppelin 80% too.


But I thought Peter Grant demanded a 90/10 split!


But Jerry’s deals with the arenas were so good, his 80% was worth more than the other guy’s 90%.


And Frank Barsalona hated Jerry for stealing Zeppelin. And held a meeting of the regional concert promoters on Long Island with the agenda of freezing Jerry out. And after the meeting, each and every promoter called Jerry to give him the details, and to say they still wanted to be in business with him. Even Bill Graham, who labeled his acquiescence to Barsalona "a mistake". Jerry asked Bill what he was thinking! Jerry had all the acts! Promoters need acts!


Jerry took care of Bill. Let him put his name on all his Bay Area gigs.


And he also put Harvey Weinstein in business. He got a call, could Jerry do a favor? Let Harvey promote shows? Jerry said yes. Allowing Harvey to clear $2500 a gig and act like a big shot.


What a web of relationships, what a web of favors owed.


But Jerry never understood music. I think that’s one of the keys to his success, he never told acts what to do. But he tired of reporting to talent. He told Irving the problem with music is the act is the employer, whereas in movies, the producer’s the employer, he switched sides!


Billy Wilder told him music was fifty percent of a movie. The other half was story.


And boy can Jerry tell stories. That’s what he’s all about. He was a natural in the movie business.


But his first film was with Robert Altman, a notorious cokehead who never yielded profits. Lew Wasserman said to get final cut. Jerry didn’t even know what final cut was. When he demanded it of Altman, Altman went berserk! And then Jerry realized he needed it, if Robert could be this out of control.

And then Altman came back with a three hour movie. And when Jerry said he had to cut it, Altman took "Nashville" to Pauline Kael, who said it was one of the four best movies ever made, but if Jerry cut it…


Jerry did the same thing with MGM. They didn’t like "Diner". He took the negative and showed it to Kael. She loved it, said he’d done it again. Did the MGM brass want to fuck with America’s number one film critic, who could literally open a picture?


They didn’t.


And that’s how Jerry’s stories go. They’re peopled with legends. Not that he’s name-dropping, they’re just part of the story.


Like Steve Ross. Who was pissed at Frank Wells for selling "Cruising" to Lorimar. Ross was about the buck. And so is Jerry. The problem with the music business today is you just can’t make enough MONEY!


And speaking of money… He told me at length about Warner paying 500 grand for a new "Exorcist" movie. Frank Wells said Jerry, Friedkin and Bill Blatty could keep it even if the film never came to fruition.


Friedkin and Blatty fought so much that there was no picture. Jerry insisted on giving his share back. But the other two?


That’s the movie business.


On Sunday Jerry has open house, five TVs blaring the NFL and a catered lunch. If you’re a friend, you’re so forever. He wants his friends around him.


And you sit there for a while, and you hear the old names, like Merv Adelson and you ask yourself, is Jerry done?


Then he tells me about the Liberace movie. I’d heard about this on Stern, that it was going to star Michael Douglas. Huh? And didn’t they just close the Liberace museum in Vegas?


THEY CLOSED VEGAS!


That’s what I love about moguls, they’ll speak the truth nobody else will. Vegas is in trouble.


And the movie isn’t about Liberace, it’s a STORY! Of a guy who’s tortured that he’s gay and can’t come out, his audience is blue-haired old ladies. Okay, very interesting. But what’s fascinating is Liberace gets his boyfriend to have plastic surgery to look just like him, so Liberace can fuck himself!


Never heard that.


That’s a story.



In the straight world, they think it’s about education. Graduate from the Ivy League and your life is made. But if you think everything is to be learned in books, you’re sorely mistaken.


And in the entertainment world, they think it’s all about power. The Tommy Mottola game. I’m God, you’re a peon. You might reign for a while, then you’re hated.


But power truly comes from camaraderie, having people love you, having people believe they can count on you, that you’ve got their back, that you come through.


Jerry’s all about coming through. Makes him feel good. If you’re not runnin’ with your buddies…


And all his buddies, from Clooney to George Bush, testified for the documentary of his life, airing on HBO in April. They all tell the same stories. Julia Roberts starts one, another famous face finishes it. Because, you see, they all know Jerry. He’s not two-dimensional, he’s positively three-dimensional. He inhabits space. He’s human, with flaws, but he’s lovable, you want to hang with him. You can feel the respect.


You feel connected. You feel you’ve got open access. Anything you need.


But you don’t want to cross him…

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