Transcript:

Speaker I can't believe I'm back here because I can't believe what? How many more questions could be?

Speaker You know, I don't remember. I don't even remember. Well, we got no choice. Sure.

Speaker So we got as far as the band coming on stage.

Speaker Liftoff was the very last story that you told me about this very thing.

Speaker And I don't know. I mean, there's just how much negativity to this story. Oh, yeah.

Speaker How much of the of the early music stuff did we cover? You talk about there's a lot of its prima covered, a little bit of it.

Speaker Some of these specific stories you didn't say cover it necessarily, but you told some wonderful stories, even more stories you just can't tell because that was the best camera.

Speaker Yeah.

Speaker So in nineteen ninety ninety one, David had become very friendly with Michael Jackson, who was only the biggest of the big. And Michael, he was sort of helping Michael straighten out his various fears of business. And Michael had separated from his prior manager and all of his prior managers. And so David called me up one day. I was spending a lot of time in California, but I'm I'm a New Yorker.

Speaker I'm not a candidate for moving to California.

Speaker And he said, John, you're going to manage Michael Jackson. So I said, well, wow, that's an interesting idea. So I said, no, you don't understand. You're the manager. So. So I haven't even met. I mean, Ebony, you know, I mean, she said, no, no, you're right. You got it. You won the lottery. You said I said one. And after I didn't have to think about this, you know, a little bit, you know.

Speaker And he said, and the only thing there's only one requirement. You know, your business is not going to be a problem. Everything's going to be it's all you know. But you have to move to California.

Speaker So I said, oh, OK, well, that's not going to happen. So I said, let me let me let me call you back about this. I need to think about it for a day or two. So I call him a little while later, he calls me. He says, are you out of your mind?

Speaker And it suddenly dawned on me that Michael was sitting there with him when he made the call, telling him he was pouncing to both of us. We were working together. And I honestly never met Michael.

Speaker And I admired him a great deal. And I didn't have the slightest interest in managing him. The truth of the matter. But I had a respect for David. You know, I said, well, look, let me rethink it. And I you know, I talked about it with with my wife.

Speaker And I called him a day later and I said, David, you know what I got? I just can't I can't do it, you know? He said, well, why can't you do it? I'm not interested in doing. So he says, you know, you really marched to the sound of a different drummer.

Speaker I'm not sure I understand that drummer, but you're definitely marching to a different drummer. He says in the show business I'm in. You said if you can manage Michael Jackson, you do it.

Speaker So I said, yeah.

Speaker But I don't like doing it.

Speaker So at that point, he came up with a word from me, which he still teases me with to this day. He decided my problem was that I'm lazy. You're just too lazy to do this. And, you know, there you go. But I didn't do it. I didn't meet with him. I didn't do it.

Speaker And by the way, may I say, I didn't regret my choice when this was what he wrote.

Speaker So I was saying the more I read about, the more impressed I am with how really very visioneering you were. I mean, not only did you get it earlier than anybody else, you understood the music better. You wrote it better. But you also understood when it became a. Business. And you did an extraordinary thing. I mean, for versus career. And you deserve all the credit for that. And one of the things you said once about David is he always knew what was over the rise. Yeah. What do you think about David? If you had to talk about it in visionary terms, you think what was his vision?

Speaker David.

Speaker David saw show business.

Speaker As this enormous party. And first thing he did was he wanted to be invited to the party. Well, once he was at the party, he realized he was the smartest guy in the room and he wanted to be throwing the party. He wanted to be at the center of the party.

Speaker He wanted his vision.

Speaker Which is a way of saying his views, his opinions, his instincts, his is his feelings to be a dominant force in the whole in the whole process, in the whole process of of the culture of entertainment.

Speaker So he went from somebody who didn't feel like he belonged. Who was sneaking off to Broadway shows when he was 10 years old, trying to figure out, you know, how. How do I get Weyers with Haddie with that door to way's the door that you get to open it? We're all the fun is, you know. And he found it.

Speaker And then he found that not only did he belong, but he he was he was transcend. He was a he was he was a foundation point for those for the whole system for the last 30, 40 years.

Speaker Yeah, I think that's right. Thirty thirty between 30 and 40 years. And you know, he had other visions. He had a vision of success for himself is undeniable. But I think that all of us in the end, he was driven by by a mixture of ideas and thoughts and in personal drives and some sometimes people. My view is that sometimes people who are have the strongest drives and they are the source of those drives can be a mix of the very neurotic and the very healthy and the very unusual whatever, you know. But those people wind up doing big and often important and relevant things. And that's Dave who was driven. You know, there's no doubt about that. He had a need to succeed that. That was as great or greater than I've ever seen.

Speaker And if you go back to the Michael Jackson story for a second in our particular relationship. There wasn't.

Speaker There's a competitive element to so many of David's relationships and in ours, I think it was a little bit less because I saw what I admired and was enchanted by what he can do and who he is and the finesse and and the the skill with which he could mobilize any situation. And I am planning to drive myself, but nothing like that. And so we always stayed relaxed with us because there was there was nothing. I don't think we ever had an. I'm one of the people who's been a good friend of his for you all this time. I've never had an argument with him or anything. I've never had a fight with him. And I don't want to. Don't and don't need to. So I don't know if that's a direct answer to the question, but that's that's my immediate reaction.

Speaker David's relationship to the music at the time, I mean, this was an explosion. You were there. We'll living in Boston. You saw it and you were there. And then it shifted to California.

Speaker And we we on. We were OK. And David was there. I mean, Elliott said, come you when leave with the bands popping up all over the place.

Speaker And he was I think you're my sense. It's very hard for him to put himself back in that place. But I've read more about it and I know more about it. I think he was really emotionally drawn to those to those song lyrics. Johnny John Nash, he was very emotionally drawn to the music, which helped, of course, that that that was going on. But he's not followed up. I think the same way that like Jerry or Armitt or he played for five in terms of the pure music.

Speaker Well, it first of all, he loved he loved the music that he signed and the artist to work with.

Speaker And he had a real feeling for it. He was always involved in so many other things. You know, he didn't have a desire like Jerry, you know, wanted and deserved. And his primary thing was he was a music man. The music was part of a of a bigger vision that David had. But he at that time when I was still a journalist and I would talk to him, you know, he was he was rapturous about all of his artists at that time. And the one I became very friendly with, the group that he had was Jackson Browne, of course. And David encouraged me enormously in in that relationship, which resulted in Jackson and me working together was the second album I produced, not the second, but the second important high visibility record which came after Born to Run. And, you know, he he had that feeling of support that people talk about with him was, you know, it was right there.

Speaker He was you know, he he he liked his his taste was his own taste. I mean, he loved show showtunes. He loved things that, you know, he didn't. I mean, he was not somebody who grew up as a rock and roll kid. He was going to Broadway shows when he was 10 years old. I was going to Alan Freed rock and roll shows when I was 12 years old. So he was sort of. His taste was shaped by a variety of factors. It wasn't just one thing.

Speaker The other thing about David is that he's an intuitive psychologist and.

Speaker The way he related to the music was through the people who made the music and his ability, you know, at different points in time to have very powerful relationships with them, you know? And he was unafraid of of artists. He's he you know, these gigantic figures or talents would not yet gigantic fingers. A lot of people, you know, be cautious in how they would deal with them. Something about, you know, David. He was he was you know, it always worked because he would was work for him was, you know, being himself and being himself.

Speaker Was he get right in people's face, you know, with great support. And also, you know, he's perfectly capable of just that's not going to work. Better change that title. So, you know, I think that people connection, you know, is incredibly strong.

Speaker You know, in Jackson's case, after David left Jackson's company and went through all, you know, it's film business and stepping back and in his time working with Jackson is done. I think on Jackson's next 10 or 12 albums, the last line in the credits. Oh, you always said and thank you, David Geffen. You know, so he couldn't.

Speaker He could have that kind of long lasting impact.

Speaker At the same time that given his legendary volatility, he could have, you know, all kinds of fights and arguments at the drop of a hat. You know, not so much with Jackson, but with other other artists, you know, and, you know, just not think a whole lot about it.

Speaker And yet. Go ahead.

Speaker Yes. When you sat down. OK. Do I look bad in that last round? OK. This is my can come more easily this way.

Speaker There's so many things I want to ask you about that time. You're good. You talked about David wanting to be invited to part of his own party.

Speaker How do you think it took over the party? He really felt he was one of the guys.

Speaker I'm not the best judge of that because, you know, my my my relationship with David was more of a one on one. I didn't see him in a lot of those settings that often. I think I think, you know, it's a point that he developed close relationships with Jack Nicholson and Warren Beatty and, you know, other major figures, Mike Nichols, who were, you know, the network that he developed was such that I hope he felt part of it because he was, you know. But, you know, as I say, I'm not I don't think I'm the best.

Speaker I don't feel like I know for sure, you know, what kind of.

Speaker Did you have a sense of how he got was creatively involved in asylum sites that he chose is amazing. Well, that's a point.

Speaker That's the point right there. You know, choosing your artist asylum had a personality.

Speaker The great labels had personalities. Atlanta had a personality. Stax Records had a personality. Motown had a personality. Elektra Records. Jack Holsten had a personality. Asylum Records. David Geffen was David Geffen's personality. That was all records. He wanted to listen to artist. He wanted to work with. And he in general, promoted at that period of time. You know, one of the things he had to offer was was tremendous amount of freedom and support.

Speaker And in the industry at that time, there were people who were learning that the Old-Fashioned, you know, record company control over content and everything was.

Speaker Was was not going to work in the new environment and that the name of the game was get the talent and then let them do what they can do and provide them with the help they need if they feel they need a great producer. You know, they want this guy or that guy helped him get that person if they didn't feel they needed it. Stand back.

Speaker You know, basically, David was coming from a talent driven vision.

Speaker And that vision was it was still even in the early 70s, was ahead of its time. It was a hit. And not that he was the only person who thought like that. But he turned it into a signature.

Speaker Now.

Speaker He certainly later on.

Speaker And things weren't going well, he he could intervene, but that wasn't that wasn't his. That really wasn't his M.O. His M.O. was, you know, if you you you have a Jackson Browne, you let him be Jackson Browne. And that's what he did.

Speaker That's what he did. And you know, when when when David love you, you could almost do no wrong.

Speaker That.

Speaker Yeah, that was the asylum. The asylum point, you know, the asylum.

Speaker And, you know, later on he had these when he came back in the 80s, he he came back after his experiences in Hollywood. And it was somewhat different, you know, and of course, he got into his famous We're out with Neil Young. And, you know, I remember I do remember talking with him about the conflicts they were having at the time. And there was something about Neil just making records that weren't you know, David didn't particularly like them or didn't think they were what he had planned on getting from Neil. And I seem to remember saying to him at one point, David, he's Neil Young.

Speaker He does what the hell he wants. He's not you know, he's not. He's. That's all. That's it. There's nothing to say.

Speaker You know, I mean, and that is Neil Young is one of the greatest talents we've ever had. And David was very involved for a very long period of time. But at a certain point, you know, he he forgot for a minute that, you know, that that that he had taught his own artist so well, what their rights were, what they were entitled to in terms of freedom, that when he found himself in a situation wearing the other hat for a brief period of time, it didn't fit.

Speaker I do know that that that's probably the single thing he most regrets.

Speaker It always was. It was just it was it was really like it wasn't David at his best.

Speaker And that's all you can say, you know. Now, that noise pick up a little bit more to make any difference on the other side.

Speaker But it's not affecting.

Speaker What would you you know. You remind me just the last time we talked about Elliot Roberts. OK.

Speaker I think he touched it. Yeah. This is the guys. Cos I'm just worried about this.

Speaker They're not going to know they're they're off my property. They're in the back of the next guy's property.

Speaker I'm going to go out there and buy the guy's property right now. Just as you said, David, he could afford to do it.

Speaker He did like the fact that people look at this.

Speaker Oh, this is just what he just bought the whole thing. It took me. Those are they move the thing down.

Speaker Further egress. Anyway, we didn't talk about Eliot.

Speaker Just paint a little picture, David. Eliot, it was likely what the differences were.

Speaker Just paint a picture. Well, Eliot, you get completely into Eliot. Eliot does. You know, Eliot was was when I met Eliot in the late 60s.

Speaker He was just wild. And I never met anybody like him. And he was bringing a whole new he was one of the managers who was upping the ante tremendously. You know, he'd go he'd go to his show and, you know. And if he didn't like something, the promoter, Don, you know, he'd have that contract with him.

Speaker He knew all the fine print and he'd say, look, that stage is supposed to be 72 inches. One hundred and twenty seven inches wide. And it's only a hundred and, you know, 15 inches wide or something. And, you know, we're not going on unless blah, blah, blah and blah, blah, blah. You know, he was he was incredibly aggressive.

Speaker But within. But he's a very lovable guy. Eliot had a great sense of humor always. And he was a great manager. And in my opinion, as a manager, their relationship, you know, I, I, I have to say, I had quite a bit more of a relationship with David, and I didn't see them together all that much. So I don't think people could, you know, be more accurate. Obviously, David didn't travel and people looked to David on the big questions, you know. But how? I don't know.

Speaker I only know what I read on there.

Speaker What do you think? All the same stuff you've written.

Speaker What do you think? Well, I think you get along so well. I mean, I had a really long history.

Speaker I think that Eliot knew how fortunate he was to have David. And David was very fortunate to have Eliot. And they were realistic about it. And that's why they that's why it works. David, David was not about to ever, you know, get himself anywhere near he he could not have been in.

Speaker When you were on the road in particular, you were working for the artist in a very overt way. You know, when you're sitting in your office and you're making deals with the record company and so forth, you have a lot of control. But once you're out on the road, it really the artist defines the the environment to a very high degree. And you have to, you know, modify. You have to adapt. You have to adapt. It's a very particular environment. And I don't think David had the slightest interest in it.

Speaker So he had a fabulous person to take care of the touring and also take care of a lot of it. Take the the lightning rods, at least some of them that would come from the orders from time to time and absorb the heat. And they they seem to, you know, worked out a a informally, you know, who was doing what in a very natural easy, you know, very natural way.

Speaker And so David didn't have any interest to me in those days, wasn't it, on the road with the band, like the most fun thing. It was about somebody else.

Speaker Touring is about touring is about your artist.

Speaker That's what it's about. You can't get a you know, you can't you. You can't be the leader of the band when you're on tour.

Speaker Now, if you strategizing about a new contract or a new concept that the artist has or some new something that they need your help with, that's something else. But on a tour where you're going out and you're just doing your shows, the artists are doing their shows. I mean, there's just no no particular. He had Elliott. He didn't need to. You know, he did. He excused himself from that, you know.

Speaker And what you hear.

Speaker What did you what was Scott?

Speaker Although although although I think if I remember correctly, one night when I was still a critic. Joni Mitchell was on tour and she came through and she was working with this little jazz group on her live shows. And he invited he was there. And not only was he there, but when they sang when she sang the circled name, one of her great songs. She had Elliott and David come out and sing, you know, just sing along. I'm remembering this now. And then afterwards, I was invited to go with the mall to a bowling alley because Joni Mitchell enjoyed bowling as a way of relaxing after the show. So. So I'm one of the people who gone bowling with her and with David Geffen.

Speaker Why do you think the media is so tough on David?

Speaker Well, he did have some horrible press.

Speaker I think that he did not have a he didn't develop a self protective instinct about the press for a while. And some of his his behavior that his friends found endearing were just part of part of him and totally accepted when it was isolated and focused on some of it by people who who didn't get the whole picture. You know, he was he was he was sort of parody and.

Speaker And he's, you know, incredibly sensitive and.

Speaker But he doesn't the press game at that time.

Speaker He you know, he he he he was.

Speaker It was the press wasn't his friend, is it? For the most part, you know, he learned in the second half of his career, he he he he developed a much better instinct. But you reminded me you had the question. I mean, it was, you know, the Julie bound gold article in Esquire was it was it was the way George Trow treated him in The New Yorker. It was a couple of things were. Well, that was that was rough stuff, you know.

Speaker But on the other hand, he didn't. It didn't defeat him. You know, he didn't.

Speaker He just ultimately charged ahead. He just took the slings and arrows and he just kept going.

Speaker Did he talk to you? Help me.

Speaker I'm trying to remember that right now. And I'm not it's not coming to mind anything specific, could it?

Speaker He didn't like it, but it brought out all the brought all the stuff that he felt when he was a kid in school, in high school.

Speaker David and me were we're sitting at one of the first Clive Davis parties at the Grammys became a fixture.

Speaker Clive would have this. It originally started out as a lunch at the Beverly Hills the day after the Grammys, which used to be on Saturday night. And then over the years, it became a pre Grammy grant to do. But this was one it was just fun and relaxed.

Speaker And so I was sitting at a table with Paul Simon and David. And I think Sue Mengers and.

Speaker A few other of David's friends, David's take an A..

Speaker An attorney named Brian Rohana Family Guy, comes over and upends David. And starts screaming at. And I'm eating. We're all eating. And I have to say, I'm in such shock that I don't even realize what's going on.

Speaker Really, nobody at the table does except for Paul Simon. God bless him. Who comes jumping around. You can't do that to my friend. And it is a fairly large guy, Ryan. And he's he's you know, and then eventually everybody, you know, responded. And, you know, he was thrown out of the party and his his beef was that David hadn't been returning his phone calls concerning some act that he was trying to to to sell.

Speaker So.

Speaker I'm with David the next day at this apartment he used to have. Not far off at sunset. And the phone rings and he goes, takes a call in another room. He comes in and he says, you know damn well I said no. He says he was Frank Sinatra.

Speaker He he said, do you need any help with this guy?

Speaker So please, no.

Speaker But now this was in the 70s. So he was already at a stage where, you know, I mean. I mean, in the 70s, he was in his early 30s. You know, you pick up the phone, Frank Sinatra. Do you need any help?

Speaker The strings, you know. And I think he was afraid of the idea. You know, I mean. Well, what does that mean? You know. But I think he'd become friends with one of Frank's four daughters and. And so, you know, apropos of nothing that you heard it before.

Speaker So when you do the Frank Sinatra part of it, because to me, that's just extraordinary that they begin to call for Frank Sinatra, say, hey, let me take your face.

Speaker That's my favorite entertainers never, ever walk away from here. So so did Dave ever talk to you about his health care?

Speaker Yeah.

Speaker And but I don't have anything to add to people who are much more familiar with it.

Speaker But you might be able to talk about because he talked about it quite freely about that would after that he really changed.

Speaker Yeah. What was your occupation of the house? Well.

Speaker To me. Well, how does he say that he changed?

Speaker She said I became a more thoughtful person, a nicer person, a little less self-centered. I mean, he certainly was. It's got a lot of self-awareness here.

Speaker And that's not to say that that person he was before is terrible person, was a young guy on the way up, ambitious, you know. Yeah.

Speaker But he says, you know, that was sobering experience and it changed me. You think it's right? Did it change in.

Speaker Well, I think that.

Speaker It did change him. I'm not the best chronicler of those changes, I think on the one hand. It changed him. On the other hand. David has a certain set of needs, and I think that. That set of needs has been a fairly constant in his life. So I think he changed in that he had an additional experience that added to his life and added some new perspective.

Speaker But I think the underlying drive needs that that he has have are intact. You know, there, there, there, there. And what are they? Well, you know, I think his his ambition, his need to have a vision is constant. Searching for a vision. His is his skill and desire to be a player.

Speaker At the highest levels are all intact. You know.

Speaker David has a charming habit of periodically does disowning all of that.

Speaker John, I don't need any of those things anymore. I'm beyond that, you know, and so on and so forth. And the reality is.

Speaker That he's not being on all of those things. And in fact, my opinion is.

Speaker That's that's positive for him, because those things are essential ingredients of who he is. You know, we all add to me the personality develops more by addition and subtraction. You know, you don't lose experiences and feelings and needs that you already have. You add new ones, new, you know, so it's a different mix. And that is what I think happened with David. But sometimes he he he sort of interprets it as he does a lot of things, sort of black and white. His old me. There's new me. Well, there's only one me or you or so forth, that goes through, you know, these ebbs and flows, you know, and not to get too philosophical. But that's just how I. I see it.

Speaker He he he likes from time to time to just tell himself and tell others, you know, hey, I have finally changed.

Speaker Which usually means he has changed, but he hasn't finally changed. That's how I would put it.

Speaker That's wonderful. You think that he's is some kind of a dormant period right now and that he's going to find some new game?

Speaker I don't know. I really don't know. I think that.

Speaker My.

Speaker My instinct is he will, because I think he will be bored not not doing you know, I think there's only.

Speaker So many weeks a year that you can.

Speaker You know, David Geffen yachtsmen, I mean, this is something that's something to leave me in the 70s. We didn't think of them as a yachtsmen.

Speaker And so that's that's something new.

Speaker But I think that his desire to be a an influential person in our culture, in society is going to be with forever. Whether whether whether he thinks so or not.

Speaker Let's just talk briefly about that. Geffen Records popped up now on Monday. It was really a very different kind of label. He was very different. David? Yeah.

Speaker And he had been I think it's one of the most boring parts of the story. I agree with you. It wasn't all that into the music.

Speaker Hey, you're kidding. It had nothing to do with the music. This was not a man who went home and listened to Aerosmith Records.

Speaker Exactly. But it was important to him. Now, let's talk about why was it important to him to come back and have. He needed something to do.

Speaker He needed something to do. You know, I think that that the Hollywood experiment, the movie experiment was a nightmare. He always managed to put the best face on it. But, you know, I think we know what he knows. You know, it was it was it was a failure for him, something he wasn't used to. And then he also had the illness and terror. Terrible, you know, fear. And when he came back, I think it was just he needed to get back in the arena one way or another. And he went to his strength and his strength was music. And so, you know, what does he do? He starts off any any signs.

Speaker Three of the greatest artists of of the Jan of the of the time, Donna Summer, Elton John.

Speaker And, you know, John Lennon.

Speaker That's before we you know, I think that was before he had an office, you know. And so he came on like gangbusters. But the daily grind of, you know, doing business in the 80s and the changes in taste and style and so forth. It could not go back to the, let's say, the whole menas of asylum. It was a different moment. And I don't think it was his favorite moment and. He realized he told me, you know, is he in?

Speaker And this is this is so important. And our business is he was in his late 30s by then and he went out and he did this thing. He hired these great a and our guys, John Tom Zaytoun, I think, you know, he knew John Kladno for a long time.

Speaker And Phelan and Gary Gurche, who's a big manager now. And they all had hot hands at the time at different different places. And he put together this 18 hour team, and it was an entire team of people who would sign people that David in a million years wouldn't pay any attention to.

Speaker Maybe Gurche cursus case was the closest to David's. But David realized that it it it in his late 30s, he couldn't pick kids anymore and he couldn't pick his artists anymore.

Speaker You know, it used to far away from from the audience. And so he realized he had a delegation.

Speaker The thing that he was the best at, which was picking. Right. So now what is he become becomes the greatest picker of an amen.

Speaker He said, I'm going to I'm I get it. I shouldn't be trying to pick what's the single and so forth. I'm going to pick the best guys to make that choice.

Speaker A lot of people in in our profession and in the record company sign never realize that. They don't. They don't realize they need to delegate some, if not all of that. Everybody thinks, you know what you're what you're walking around at 40, 50, 60.

Speaker You're audiences 15 to 20.

Speaker And, you know, it's it's it's not easy, you know.

Speaker It should still be the person who hears the music that is going to move that generation, you know. So he so he made a go of it. And he wound up, you know, eventually succeeding mightily. You know, and he wound up with Guns N Roses and Nirvana. The two greatest American rock bands of their generation.

Speaker This is this is for label and a guy who was not interested in rock bands. So he made it work. He made it work. You know.

Speaker OK, became, you know. Yeah, yeah.

Speaker After after a very slow start.

Speaker Did he ever if you don't have a story there, just say so. Did he ever talk to you about how you use.

Speaker Yeah, and the most fun story is the story.

Speaker I'm sure you've gotten from somebody else the Clint Eastwood story.

Speaker Actually, nobody's told us this story. I know it, but. Right.

Speaker He told me one day he was going back and forth from L.A. to New York colliding. He sees this movie. He told me The Outlaw Josey Wales.

Speaker So he said winning.

Speaker He told me after the fact, it goes in and he tells he goes in and tells Clint Eastwood who's who's who's a pretty or inspiring figure in Hollywood. Certainly now. And he was then.

Speaker And he said Clint Geffen's a new kid on the block. And he says. I have a few comments about the picture. I think it's your best work, but it's 10 or 15 minutes too long. So Clint said, well, I really according to David, he said, well, I really appreciate you taking the time to make these comments. And he said, you know, maybe you could take another look at the film and write them down for me, some other comments. And he said, then you could send it over to my office at Paramount. So Gaffin says, well, why would I send it over to Paramount? He said, because that's where I'll be making my next movie, at which point Geffen says. Click The picture is a masterpiece.

Speaker It's perfect and gets out of there as fast as he can. He's telling me the story, if I remember correctly, all these years ago. I mean, he was like he was like, can you believe I did that? You know, it was just it was it was sobering. It was sobering. Any also realized there are different rules in the movie business is different rules. You know, this big, big difference even between movie stars and music stores, there are differences.

Speaker And, you know, so kind of rule is you don't tell the truth.

Speaker You say, well, you know, in the record business.

Speaker It was typical at that time that artists were signed to multi album contracts. And they couldn't. They they couldn't. There wouldn't have been able to make the statement that Clint made to David. But film film artists were more free agents more of the time. Some of them occasionally make these long term deals, but it was not the same. And as soon as you're dealing with somebody who can say, you know, send it over to the competition, that's where I'll be for my next movie. The the leverage situation is all a whole different ballgame.

Speaker So I think he I think he'd been there before.

Speaker I think I think I think the lines that he used with David in that story, which has become a well-known story over the years, I have a feeling and I don't know mysteries would, but I just have a feeling he may have had a chance to try those lines out on some poor movie executive prior to that.

Speaker You once wrote.

Speaker If you could give it back to us in some way. David knows more about making two billion dollars than he does about being happy.

Speaker I think he wants to know that being happy. When did I write? Oh, he's actually going to say he was a work in progress. He's been able to experience happiness, but it's been a rollercoaster for him.

Speaker So, I mean, just that whole concept that we went I know that I'm safe.

Speaker Around us. Yes, it was. It was exactly for the Seebruck article about that long piece.

Speaker Yeah. I'm not even. How would you. Was it.

Speaker I know she was around things around the time. Just before I saw that. Yeah. Yeah. Well I think. I think that.

Speaker Yeah. You know, ninety nine, ninety nine. So 20 years ago. Yeah. You know, 20 years ago I was asked and I said that David knew more about how to make two billion dollars than he did about being happy.

Speaker And I'm very happy for him because I know in the last 20 years he's found ways to make himself happier than ever before.

Speaker The there's a way in which succeeding in business.

Speaker I don't want it.

Speaker You know, easy isn't the right word because he you know, he works like a maniac. But it came so naturally to him and other parts of life didn't come as naturally.

Speaker And he's had, you know, like we all have these had to work on the parts they'd have and haven't worked well or, you know, that he wasn't he wasn't gifted with from day one. And when I saw him the other night at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and this huge smile on his face, and he was totally himself and killing me mercilessly and and just loose and and and and having a great time. I was very happy. I was just very happy for him. Very happy to see that, you know, take a moment.

Speaker David, you know, you can get my laugh on this if you ever get yourself out of this. So, OK, thank you again. Well, that's why I went to the. Yeah, there's some up there.

Speaker What is the definition of the kind of power and type a little bit about how he's chosen to use that now that he's sort of not really you.

Speaker Well. He.

Speaker He has this most extraordinary understanding of how things really work. And he has this understanding of what will get things done. You know, what's the most efficient way to get things done?

Speaker He doesn't play by any particular set of rules except his own because he he he can see the path. You know, he always sees the path. If we're just talking about straight out the ability to get what he wants in a situation. And so power is that he has accumulated the relationships, the network, the that the. The pieces of the puzzle that he needs to enact his vision. So when he decides he wants to.

Speaker I have a role. In the 2008 election.

Speaker Well, where do we find out about it? In Maureen Dowd's column in The New York Times, hard, hard not to make a bigger splash than that.

Speaker You know, if you're a citizen and you want to you want to get your views out, that's a pretty good way to do it. You know, just as a small example. So, you know, whatever area you're talking about. He knows where to go. And he has and he has his relationships and his friendships and across the board that that come into play. And you've heard this no doubt, or I think me put it this way. I think a common statement on the part of people who know David is.

Speaker In a work environment, he's a greatest friend you can have and the greatest enemy you can have. David? Nothing. There's nothing half way about David when he is your friend. He backs you all the way. And when it's a fan, you don't want to be in a room. You know, that's that's that's it. That's as true today as it's ever been.

Speaker And what are some of the things I mean, there's some very famous feuds like what you think are worth talking about. And the reason you think.

Speaker I mean, you know, this is a full portrait of him coming over.

Speaker Well, he had the Yetnikoff thing was, was David's fight with Walter was was two people of extraordinary temperament who got into a negative situation with each other that that nobody could contain. And it happened to be a period in time where Yetnikoff, who was for most of his tenure as the head of CBS then and then Sony Music Group was brilliant and who David admired in some ways. But Walter was it was it was coming to a place in his life where he he he was which he's written about, you know, that he was out of control and he was making life hell for everybody, including his friends. And, you know, David just wouldn't tolerate it.

Speaker And eventually, he he he did what he needed to do to get the situation corrected, which was to play a principal role in Walter's departure from from the label and so on. That particular one, you know. But the Ovid's feud, which I have no special knowledge of, is certainly that's that's the that's the you know, that's that's.

Speaker You know, I don't know. You know, Shakespearian, you know, and I know.

Speaker I just don't have any firsthand information on it. So I don't think I'm I'm the best source. You talking to Ovitz?

Speaker John, you know, this, this, this.

Speaker Well, this velvet mafia idea is, from my vantage point, is is is just silly, because if you look at David's history in who he has worked with, whether it's artists or executives, it is his his his management partner is his you know, his is his his lawyers is just across the board. There's no there's no naturally he's you know, he's in he's involved in the part of the culture personally that appeals to him in his in his own life. But as far as is being sort of a a group with some super collective power velvet mafia, I don't see it.

Speaker That reminds me of any. Do you think that there was that was a big moment of David's life when he publicly came out.

Speaker I was in I think is coming out was an extraordinary moment. I think that was actually a big cultural moment as well. But his that was a life changing experience for him.

Speaker And I think everybody who knew him was thrilled for him that he went ahead and did that, you know, and.

Speaker And know you have a genuine understanding of David, I mean, that your friendship seems to be quite, quite real. Know, they probably work together that much once it gets a real friendship.

Speaker So. You have compassion for him and you have admiration for him.

Speaker Somewhere along the line. Did you ever talk to you about his childhood? Do you have any idea? Well, clue as to how David Geffen got to be dead?

Speaker Well, you were just saying I have admiration for him. What was it you said? I have admiration for David. Compassion for David. And I love David. And he. You know, I I'm I'm a sort of an odd friend of his in that I'm not really. Our relationship is always sort of just been our own particular friendship. I'm not a part of his broader social world for the most part. And but I you know, where exactly we connect.

Speaker I don't I don't know.

Speaker But it's sort of just a wonderful friendship to have in my life. I've never worked for David. I think that's a contributor to thirty plus years of uninterrupted friendship. And I think I I was always afraid. There were times where we might have worked together on something. And I think I was intimidated by David to a certain degree, not, you know, not in a negative way, just realistically speaking. And, you know, I'm I'm I'm I think of myself as a pretty bright guy.

Speaker Generally speaking, he he's the chances are he's gonna be the smartest guy in the room.

Speaker You know, just that's the way it is, you know, and the savviest, let's put it that way. The savviest. And he's going to be one or two steps ahead of of whatever the process is, whatever the issue is he is. He's gonna to be the guy who's, you know, he's he's he's easy. He's he's you know, it's the second inning for everybody else. It's the fifth inning for him. He's he sees where this has gone, you know, and and he knows how he's going to get it to where it needs to go forward from his point of view. So he's a remarkable package of of of of talents and personality traits. And obviously, he's continues to be a fascinating public figure. I think he has his his gift is that he has created a universe. He's created his, you know, a certain world that he lives in that this sort of. Is is his environment. He needs to thrive in and has been enormously productive. And as a result of his work, you know, a tremendous amount of valuable things have come into the culture under his guidance and stewardship. You know more than that. For me, he's just a great person to be friends with. He's a tremendous amount of fun. He's got a phenomenal sense of humor. He laughs easily. He is. You always feel support. I call him up to this day and we stay in touch as much as as I would like.

Speaker But, you know, I'm having a problem with there's a guy who is going to understand the problem and is going to really in a very practical level.

Speaker You're going to get something. You're going to get something back. You're going to get something usable back in terms of whatever type of problem it is. You know, he's. He is.

Speaker Win for me. He's just been an extraordinary person at my life and.

Speaker He picks his friends very carefully. And I think one of his chief requirements is intelligence. And I think that one of the reasons that you guys connect so early on is that, you know, you're really smart guy. And I'm sure he admired age writing. Sure.

Speaker He does know that. Absolutely. You know, with David, one of the things. You know, when he says somebody is a dope. That's not a good sign.

Speaker He he he needs. He is he is credible.

Speaker Mind, incredibly active. Mind any. He likes to be with people who can keep up with him.

Speaker And and surprise him, you know, and he he he bought a painting from a friend of mine, an ex friend of mine. Fifteen years ago. And I had introduced him to this person and he had an issue with after the fact with the transaction. And he was flipped out in high gear.

Speaker And he called me and he said, what should I do? I want to kill this guy. So, you know, I'm speaking figuratively, I guess. And he said, I'm going to soon. So I sounded a good idea. Why? Is it because if I if you sue him, the picture will become worthless.

Speaker And the only way this guy is going to be able to pay back is by selling the picture again.

Speaker He said, John. That's good advice. I was so pleased.

Speaker And in fact, he gave the picture back to the dealer, the dealer eventually sold it. You know, again, and he got out of the situation. But is it. This argument had was being covered more or less, as you know, in some New York papers. And he he gave me he gave me credit once for this brilliant idea. I was going to soon to my friend John told me, hey, if you sue, you're going to kill a picture, you know?

Speaker And so one of the things I always have relevant to anything, it just wasn't working is that I know what kinds of things really piss.

Speaker Oh, what kinds of things. David Geffen off young, a lot of things not getting his way is is pretty high on the list. David, it can be quite dramatic about his sense of being wronged, about small things, you know. Where he's sitting at something or where he's, you know, just normal social things, is his he he is he's a needy person and in certain insecurities that he was born with that are still lurking.

Speaker You know, they're still there. And.

Speaker And so they're part of the mix. And.

Speaker What he perceives as disloyalty is is a terrible, terrible problem.

Speaker His definition of what loyalty entails can be difficult for others to live up to. You know, he has his own interpretation.

Speaker I would say that he's a person whose feelings can be easily heard and and and that he angers quickly.

Speaker He can also sometimes in some situations, forget about things quickly and other times the long memory, you know. You know, part of of getting along with David is you have to be able to roll with him. You know, you have to be able to just handle his the ups and downs, you know.

Speaker How much of that you think comes from his childhood is, you know, having the gangs.

Speaker With it?

Speaker I mean, I'm not I don't I mean, I think we we both know a great deal, but I don't I can't add to the picture there because I just don't feel like a, you know, who's gotten to know his background, his early history pretty well.

Speaker Is Gruman you're gonna get him?

Speaker That's what everybody says are.

Speaker He's he's. Listen, I was saying, I think to Emma before that. He's. He's I think to this day, you know, maybe not this last year or so, but for most Middle East. Many years, Rubin is is is one of his first three calls everyday. You know, David wakes up. He's always he's gotten heat. He checks in with, I don't know, the other two. I think Sandy is is.

Speaker But you got to talk to him. Well, I do know that. Great story. Which I'm hoping he'll tell us. I'm sure he will. I think it was right before one of the big sales before that, before he was about to become a millionaire.

Speaker Right. He says it can take to get my car take a drive. Yeah.

Speaker Yeah.

Speaker I want to I want to remember this now. Yeah. You know, I do.

Speaker I do not. Alan, I think, you know, the the the.

Speaker He called me. David called me. I don't know. It's like seven o'clock in the morning. One day. And I was in L.A. and he said I just bought Jack Warner's house.

Speaker Four thirty seven and a half million dollars back when.

Speaker Thirty seven and a half million dollars was thought of. Bye bye bye. The superwealthy is a lot of money and.

Speaker And he'd started describing it to me. He said, you know, you want to see it. You know, when I. For some reason couldn't go with him that day. I do know I said to him and I said, you're going to end up living in your house in Malibu that you've been in forever. He said, that's your home. You love it there. What you can do with 30000 square feet.

Speaker Right. And you know, he does.

Speaker He doesn't. He doesn't. He.

Speaker I was substantially right about that one.

Speaker The you know, it was a toy. It was just it was excitement. And it was a thrill. And but, you know, he he actually the scale that he functions thrives on is smaller. Fabulous apartment that he got in New York that he lived in in the late 70s, that Charlie GWAS me did form, which was the jewel. Amelia was Jewel is amazingly small. He he he actually likes more of a cocoon and more of an intimate type of space than big sprawling.

Speaker You know, it's a showplace place. Public fundraisers.

Speaker I've been in both so I can see like it's quite beautiful and it is a place to put paintings. Yeah. Yeah, it's I mean, it's it's a film. Yeah.

Speaker Well, you know, it's also the fulfillment of some of his favorite book as a child. Was Hollywood much.

Speaker Well that's that's what he was the he was fulfilling his childhood dreams about Hollywood when he bought the Warner house. But you mentioned, you know, his art collection and that that house is a house where he can display the art.

Speaker You know, one of the things people don't know is that in the last two or three years, David, he has probably, you know, who has been selling a lot of his pictures.

Speaker It's probably done more business than. I'm just going to say. You know, if not one, both of the auction houses combined.

Speaker He's the biggest art dealer in the world. He just doesn't. There's there's no he just doesn't call it that.

Speaker I did not know, but I did not know that. I think it well, you know, he he he.

Speaker Yeah. I think that, you know, he has the best pictures and he he. And when he when he decides to sell, there's nobody there's nobody who has the the quality of picture he is. And and and he has not only the quality of pictures, but he has the pictures everybody wants by the artist everybody wants, you know. So you don't even there.

Speaker He's he's. Is he. He sort of has you know, his ability to hit the bull's eye is. You know, it is uncanny.

Speaker Just a couple things as I get tired here. I think we don't have to be disappointed. Really?

Speaker There's you know, that's I'm I'm I'm not particularly knowledgeable.

Speaker But it comes.

Speaker Well, you know, I think it's also it's part of what power is about to do that. Absolutely.

Speaker Three words.

Speaker David Geffen and three words in three words. Too complicated for three words.

Speaker Looking at.

Speaker In his own way and is utterly unique way. In his volatile way, he is a searcher. He's a seeker. And he's a genius.

Speaker One last question. What do you think he would do? What what do you think he would think was his proudest achievement?

Speaker David had just planned to write an autobiography many, many years ago, and nothing ever came of it that I know about. But he had his title picked out and it was called My Invention by David Give.

Speaker That's great that I did not know that I had no idea.

Speaker Jessica, ever my feel is coming already, but I just wanted to take a picture. They wanted to ask him about, you know, born.

Speaker Oh, I think you kind of covered it. For instance, two things when he had the one of any for sure. You know, when he came out, I never could remember the AIDS better thing. And one of the two things he said, one is you said immobilized David Geffen is somebody somebody you want working for you not to get your guy and the others is is having a hard time tapping into that one.

Speaker Exactly. But he said things that described him as a captain of industry with the soul of an artist. Yeah.

Speaker I, I, I can't improve on that. I think that's the Warren Beatty said that he was a captain of industry. David. With the soul of an artist. I just think that's very happed. Except that when you say the phrase captain of industry, you tend to think of like, you know, J.P. Morgan or, you know, a classic business person.

Speaker David. You know, he couldn't function.

Speaker In a conventional environment, you know, when he when he did Triazine Warner Studios, you know, where he he had to really create work within an organizational structure that was no good for him.

Speaker That's not him. So, you know, he's he's he's almost beyond captains of industry in a sense that he's he's more of a magician, you know.

Speaker You know, these guys. That's just and the soul of an artist's desire is that underneath there that that provides them with some sort of guidance. You know, his is his. He's still in touch with his initial excitement about about Broadway's Broadway tunes and all the stuff where he he he got started. His energy and his excitement got started. And.

Speaker There it is. This is a great interview. Really insightful. But there's one last thing. One last thing, I promise. Let's just get you something.

Speaker I have wanted to thing, but I don't know just because it's something that I thought. I just thought. I mean, do you think David has has. I think he's an embodiment of the American dream.

Speaker I was just what I was just knowing. We know, as we say. I mean, this is there is there is a kind of a classic rags to riches story that is embodied in this story.

Speaker I from nowhere to, you know, this. Can you talk about that a little bit?

Speaker Well, David, David is here.

Speaker But David is a there's a bridge to riches story where he was, Richard. Twenty five. That isn't the normal rags to riches story. And so from twenty five on.

Speaker You know, he's he's he's been in a economic space that few people ever get to know. The species are now. One hundred people can get to maybe, you know, but the space he was in, even by the earliest after the Lord, no neuro deal. He was he was he was an imminent success. So he's had the rest of the time to sort of trying to find what what his success means to him and and to embellish it in to created and to recreate it. And, you know, I the American dream is is it's easy to call it that. But I think there's something even more basic about it. I don't know if I can put my my finger on it, but I think that to use it to use an overused term.

Speaker I think that David was driven here I am playing. Psychologist.

Speaker But nonetheless, you know, in the most profound sense, by a a drive for survival, I think he did the things that he did because they felt so basic to him that if he didn't do them. It is it would be threatening to his identity. He needed to this vision, this invention, this inventing of himself was something that he had no choice about.

Speaker It's something he had to do. And he found a way to do it. And.

Speaker It's it's, uh. He's been on quite a journey.

Jon Landau Interview #2
Interview Date:
2009-11-06
Runtime:
1:23:17
Keywords:
American Archive of Public Broadcasting GUID:
cpb-aacip-504-bz6154fb27, cpb-aacip-504-5t3fx74f3h, cpb-aacip-504-jh3cz32t5h
MLA CITATIONS:
"Jon Landau Interview #2, Inventing David Geffen." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). 06 Nov. 2009, https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/711
APA CITATIONS:
(2009, November 06). Jon Landau Interview #2, Inventing David Geffen. [Video]. American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/711
CHICAGO CITATIONS:
"Jon Landau Interview #2, Inventing David Geffen." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). November 06, 2009. Accessed January 25, 2022 https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/711

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