By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
Miles came in to see us, and he’s sitting at the bar. I had met him before, but he didn’t even remember me. Then he calls me over and he says, Jimmie, you know who I am: Miles Davis. He says, I’m not gonna pay this tab — he ran up a tab for about $80. I said, Whatta you talkin’ about? He says, Well, you’re using my saxophone player, John Coltrane. And I’m not gonna pay.
What would you have done?I probably would’ve let it go.
But I’m a businessman. Coltrane’s costing me $500 for the night, and I’m struggling to get every buck I can just to pay him. I said, Wait a minute, Miles, if I bring you in and I’m paying you, like — you get around five grand a week — Miles, if you come in here and you play, and if I let everybody come in and scam their tabs, how am I gonna pay ya? You tell me. I said, I’ve got a disc jockey here that gets part of the dough, I’ve got the rent, I’ve got four musicians that I have to pay.
So, not a confrontation, just bullshitting back and forth. I said, Look, you know something, Miles, if you don’t wanna pay, I don’t give a fuck. [Laughs.] What are we gonna do, argue about a few bucks, with Miles Davis?Did he pay or not?
He paid it. And he gave the bartender a $20 tip.Okay, to what extent was the Mafia involved in the scene?
It was against the law for them to own clubs. If you had a mob influence, they wouldn’t issue you a license.Anyone try to muscle in on you?
Nah. There were all these guys from the Detroit mob out here. One of them later set me up in a club where I played to a totally empty room for six weeks. It was just a front.
Mickey Cohen was a wonderful guy. He used to come into the Summit every night to see me, and he’d spend a thousand bucks a night. He’d come in alone, and he’d sit there and he’d buy everybody ç drinks. At quarter to 2 he’d say, Make an announcement, Jimmie, everybody’s invited to the Round Up [near the Strip] if anybody wants to have breakfast.Mickey had an employee named Johnny Stompanato —
He was at the club a lot. He came in the night he got killed.Do you remember what kind of vibe he had?
Really good-looking guy. Handsome sonofabitch, very calm, cool. And I knew Jack Whalen, he was The Enforcer. He was the toughest guy. But to meet these guys, you wouldn’t know it. They just looked like regular guys.Did Johnny Stomp ever come in with Lana Turner?
No, but her daughter worked for us later on. And all of Errol Flynn’s ex-wives came in. Harrison Carroll was there every night, he was a big writer for the Examiner; all the big writers — Hedda Hopper, Army Archerd, Dorothy Manners, Sid Skolsky of the Hollywood Citizen News. Big headlines.
So I was working the club, and I had my own TV show, half hour a night on Channel 13, five nights a week. Then I started making records. I signed a recording contract with Dot Records. I made it on my own — "Tongue Tied" — and my manager at the time brought it to Dot, and they took it and released it. Then I formed the record division at American International Pictures. We had an office on the Strip, right next to Sam Arkoff’s office. I came up with the idea of making records to put into movies for soundtracks, and it worked.What were some of the films you did?
One that I was a featured star in was The Ghost of Drag Strip Hollow. I actually sang in the picture.We’re moving into the ’60s now. You were working as a promoter then as well as a club owner, right?
I was mainly a musician. At the time, I was producing records ’cause I just knew the business and I could put ’em together quick. I had a recording studio that I controlled as general manager; I could tape bands at the studio, and I could put groups together and record ’em. And then I came up with an idea. I said, you know something, if I could get the Deauville club right by the Santa Monica Pier and put a surf festival on, and get 50 surf bands, it would be the biggest event that ever happened. And I did it. It was 1963. Dick Dale played there. And we stopped traffic from downtown L.A. all the way to Malibu.Meanwhile, music is changing again. The influence of jazz and R&B is waning a bit, and garage-rock is coming on strong. You produced the first Seeds album. Did you dig them musically, or was it more like a paycheck?
First of all, I liked Sky Saxon. His real name is Dick Marsh, and he’s from Salt Lake City. He came to me at AIP, and he’d written a song called "The Plan." Real nice kid — clean-cut, sang in that kinda babyish voice. I liked his song, so I put it in the movie Diary of a High School Bride. I was more interested in guys that could perform and sing and play. Did I like them musically? If they did a good job at anything they did, I had an open mind.Did Sky have a band at that point?