By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Then I figured it out. A&R people.
I ran into a friend from Warner Bros. “Let me give you the breakdown,” she said. “There are 30 people from Warner here, 10 from Capitol, the older fellow sitting at the table is Seymour Stein, and we have one John Kalodner.” Normal humans? Zero.
I should have been excited about the prospect of my favorite new artist playing to a room of star makers. Soon she would get the recognition she deserved! Problem is, many in the crowd were less renowned for their signing power than their own celebrity. The last big “get” of Stein’s career was in 1982, when he signed Madonna from a hospital bed while recovering from open-heart surgery. While I have undying respect for a man with the evenhanded vision to sign both the Ramones and Fleetwood Mac, rumor has it he is, at this point, less interested in music than in antiquing. Then there is the scary Kalodner — best known for his work with Foreigner, Bon Jovi and Wang Chung — whose affectations include all-white suits, an 8-inch beard and a standard liner-note credit that reads “John Kalodner: John Kalodner.” (For more, visit his self-maintained shrine at www.johnkalodner.com. Sample content from the “Fun Facts” section: “#38. JDK uses Trojan blue condoms.” “#81. JDK’s favorite restaurants are Toscana & Prego.”)
At 9:30, Spektor, a slight, bemused young woman wearing antique stockings and a vintage dress, took the stage. The only visible instruments were an electric piano, a microphone, and a drum stick balanced on an overturned milk crate. Her hair grew wild in rich red curls; her big eyes had an off-kilter look. She was pretty but not in a traditional way (i.e., I did not feel the urge to force-feed her carbohydrates).
Will she be coming soon to a record store near you? Well, she collaborated with the Strokes on the B-side of their upcoming British single, and the band demanded the initial run be destroyed because a typesetting error didn’t give her top billing. But do today’s A&R people really care? I’m not sure. Take the evening’s headliner. A few years back, The New Yorker referred to Mandell as “perhaps the best unsigned artist in the business.” But she still can’t get a record deal, despite a loyal local following and support among the press. (She was voted “Best Songwriter” in this year’s L.A. WeeklyMusic Awards, alongside Elliott Smith.)
None of this mattered when Spektor opened her mouth. And then she sang a song presciently titled “Ghosts of Corporate Future.” It summed up my impression of the typical A&R man’s priorities: “A man walks out of his apartment/It is raining he’s got no umbrella/He starts running beneath the awnings/Trying to save his suit.”
Baby's First Casting Call
No Hollywood myth is as deeply ingrained in the terrified psyche as that of the messed-up child actor, the indulged, pampered brat who peaks too soon in life and is condemned to a miserable existence trying to relive his or her glory days. And woe to the moms and dads who would steer their precious offspring down that road, for they too are heading into dangerous stereotype territory, that of the dreaded “stage parent,” manipulative, overbearing, and vicariously living through their pride and joys.
On the other hand, if you’ve got a beautiful baby, why not try to earn him some extra dough college-wise, simply by having him mug in a commercial? “Maximizing your profitability” is a mantra for adults, why not for a pretty little-bitty one? And so we signed up our bundle with a manager from Lang Talent, even got him legal with the city and state, which includes setting up a “Coogan Account” (named for the late Jackie Coogan, the famous child star who was ripped off by his parents).
The heir apparent’s first stab at the world of commercials takes place at one of his part-time actor daddy’s favorite haunts, 200 S. La Brea, the big, new, clean casting emporium with eight-plus studios and a rabbits’ warren of offices in the back. Seems that every other commercial call I get these days leads me here, but this time it’s as chauffeur, not “talent.”
The babies waiting for their turn in the lobby are running their parents ragged, darting in and out of other studios, doing that terrifying “heading for the door” thing that newly empowered toddlers do, stealing each other’s toys, screaming at the top of their lungs unprovoked, being alternately completely uncooperative and then fawningly charming when praised in the least by the frazzled casting directors. If they weren’t smaller and cuter, you’d never be able to tell them apart from the average adult actor at all.
The product is one we’re more than completely familiar with, a “Baby Einstein” video. Considering that the young’un adores these simple vids and is rapt as they play in our house, his mom and I figure that this is some kind of divine sign that we’re on the right track.